How Sunderland's new £14m Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy will look as contractor named

Plans for a new £14million academy to train the next generation of housebuilders in Sunderland have taken a step closer to reality.

Sunderland City Council has appointed Tolent to design and build the Housing Innovation and Construction Skills Academy (HICSA).

Operated by Sunderland College, it will to train people to erect new factory-built homes known as Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) buildings - the first of which will be assembled at Riverside Sunderland.

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Planning permission was granted in March and it is hoped work on the £14million building will start later this year when the technical design is complete.

The scheme, which involves redeveloping the existing goods shed on the corner of Hay Street in Sheepfolds area, will also train people to ‘retrofit’ new energy saving technologies in existing homes.

It will be supported by education and industry partners including Washington-born TV architect George Clarke’s Ministry of Building Innovation and Education.

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City council leader Coun Graeme Miller said he was delighted to see the plans taking shape: “I’m pleased that we have appointed a construction partner able to help us drive forward with a development that is of huge significance to the city – a development that will fuel the development of construction skills that will make Sunderland a leader in MMC and retrofit,” he said.

“With Tolent working on the development of the first housing scheme on Vaux too, it is quite fitting that they will also be building the training academy that will develop skills to help us deliver future phases of residential development at Riverside Sunderland.”

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How one of the academy's workshops could look
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Tolent CEO Paul Webster said the academy would provide the firm’s workforce of the future: “The talent that emerges from HICSA will no doubt power our own future skills pipeline, so we’re pleased to be playing a part in bringing this important project forward.”

Sunderland College chief executive Ellen Thinnesen added: “I am grateful to Sunderland City Council and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for supporting this vision.

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"A significant increase in training provision is needed for all skills and roles across the construction and energy sectors if we are to build homes of the future, and support the UK’s low carbon ambitions.

An exterior view
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"HICSA will be a key part of the ecosystem.”

The proposals for the academy's foyer
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Another exterior view