Using Microsoft Teams, the College’s Level 2 Bench Joinery & Shopfitting group met industry innovators and heard from employers about the latest techniques and materials. Speakers included representatives from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Historic England, the Structural Timber Association (STA), MEDITE SMARTPLY, IOC, the Trussed Rafter Association, and the Timber Trade Federation (TTF).

The event kicked off with a welcome by Derek Whitehead, Leeds College of Building principal, and an introduction by Geoff Rhodes, IOC president. This was followed by a range of 20-minute seminars from other carpentry and manufacturing experts.

Programme topics covered: national career opportunities in the construction-related sector; specialist handcraft-skills; working as a builder in the heritage sector; the housing and roofing sector and innovative new materials; ground-breaking MDF and OSB panel products; sustainability, renewables and certification; and TTF statistics covering the scale of the global timber industry.

This virtual event is just one of the latest IOC enhancements to the student experience at Leeds College of Building. Through the partnership, carpentry and joinery students now have free membership to the IOC. The affiliation lasts for the duration of their studies and for a year after graduation. The IOC showcases the industry as a modern and exciting route into trades. It supports innovative new construction methods, including research into waterproof timber structure at a molecular level.

“For two years now, we have been developing and rolling out our national programme of IOC City Hub meetings with FE colleges across the UK in order to add meaningful value to the learning experience of all student learners,” said Geoff Rhodes. “The partnership with Leeds College of Building is another great example of seeing this reality in action.”

“Leeds College of Building was delighted to host this first virtual IOC City Hub; our students greatly benefitted from the collective knowledge shared by all the industry experts who contributed,” said Derek Whitehead. “The students gave very positive feedback about the training session, as did the presenters who benefitted from networking themselves. I’d like to express enormous appreciation to the IOC for creating this initiative and the fantastic support shown to the College. We look forward to more initiatives like this in the future.”

“I’m thrilled this event came to fruition after nearly a year of planning and being stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Michael Martin, Leeds College of Building curriculum manager. “What was meant to be a fair of industry stallholders and specialist seminars instead became a virtual event of experts across diverse fields. 

“This event was a fantastic opportunity for our learners to find out more about the wider industry and global career opportunities before they progress to Level 3 in September. We now have solid foundations to build upon and next year we intend to have a face-to-face event. The hope is to bring carpentry and joinery professionals together with the next generation of craftspeople.”