Housebuilder opens construction training academy to bridge skills gap

Ribbon cutting at the Russell Skills Academy

Russell Skills Academy

A lack of skilled construction workers is an oft-bemoaned challenge for housebuilders,

so it was good to see Vistry Group addressing the problem by opening a skills academy at its Bovis Homes Coggeshall Mill scheme near Colchester on Tuesday.

The Russell Skills Academy is named after the late Darren Russell, a Vistry area manager who died in a motorbike accident last summer. Russell, whose widow Katie (pictured) cut the ribbon on the academy, served with the military for three years before joining Vistry, which is working with Building Heroes, a charity that helps ex-service people gain construction careers. Russells Skills Academy will provide training for over 70 ex-military personnel a year, while Building Heros has helped 2,300 military personnel since 2014. 

The firm said Colchester is a natural choice for its academy because of the city’s military connections. It plans to open a second academy at Bovis’s Hounsome Fields scheme in Basingstoke in Q2 and has nine other skills academies opening or continuing to run this year.

Vistry’s chief operating officer Earl Sibley said: “Social value is at the heart of building sustainable communities and we look forward to establishing more skills academies for veterans.”