Work has started on a world-class training centre in Sheepfolds.

The Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy (HICSA) – a ground-breaking training base that will educate and upskill local people with the technical skills to build, retrofit and create innovative factory-built new homes – will rise from the ground in 2024, after a partnership agreement was signed between Sunderland College and development lead Sunderland City Council, who have appointed local firm Brims Construction Limited to construct the facility.

Expected to be complete in summer 2025, HICSA will provide ‘next generation skills for next generation homes’ and support the city’s advanced manufacturing, carbon reduction and renewable energy ambitions, working with young people and adults to ensure they are able to install new technologies and construct homes of the future.

The building will sit at the heart of Riverside Sunderland – one of the UK’s most ambitious regeneration sites – where a re-purposed existing goods shed, on the corner of Hay Street, will be restored and connected to a new building that will be large enough to accommodate a full-sized building, to allow students to experience construction in a new and exciting way.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Today is an exciting moment, as we prepare to build an Academy that will deliver lifechanging opportunities for the young people who will train here, enable us to embrace low carbon and advanced manufacturing and – ultimately -build more and better homes for our residents too.

“This is a brilliant example of partnership working in action.  The college and the council coming together to deliver a scheme that will see Sunderland build on its heritage as a city of makers.”

Ellen Thinnesen, chief executive of Education Partnership North East which includes Sunderland College, said: “We’re thrilled to see HICSA about to become a reality.

“HICSA will provide a world-class industry gateway, aligned to Sunderland’s ambitious infrastructure investment and providing a future pipeline of skilled construction workers. Through technical learning environments students and apprentices will access full, part-time and modularised training options with pathways to jobs and upskilling opportunities for those seeking further career development.

“Over the past year technical specialists at Sunderland College have been designing HICSA’s future curriculum which will equip students and trainees with modern skills for rewarding careers in construction and housing. It’s so exciting for the city, a region on the cusp of devolution, our college and most of all, for the communities we serve.”

Sunderland College will operate the academy with support from a strategic construction and housing industry advisory board, including  one of the founding partners, the Ministry of Building Innovation and Education (MOBIE), which is led by TV architect, George Clarke. The Washington-born star was on site to see work get underway.

“What an opportunity this represents for the people of Sunderland,” said George.

“HICSA will be unlike any other training environment around, and it is right at the centre of an emerging community that will change the way people live – change the way we see housing.  It’s superb for the city to be innovating in this way, and I am proud to be part of it.”

HICSA is one of several projects that will form Riverside Sunderland, including the already completed City Hall and The Beam, as well as a new footbridge across the River Wear; a state-of-the-art Eye Hospital – work on which started this week; Culture House, a multi-purpose cultural venue; and the National Esports Performance Campus.

Watch the video here.

Why Education Partnership North East (EPNE)?

Highly commended - Employer of the Year, Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards 2019

Engagement with Employers - Association of Colleges (AoC) Beacon Award 2017

(Sunderland College On-programme Survey 2017)

Selected by DfE for 2021 T Level pilot to deliver the new high-quality technical qualifications.

98% overall employer satisfaction - Employer Survey 2018/19