An independent provider of trades courses in Bristol has marked 10 years in business with a key
appointment, to satisfy demand for a new range of domestic electrical courses.
Fresh from achieving a Good rating for its first ever Ofsted inspection, South West Construction
Academy has secured the services of Paul Smithies to lead its new offering.
Government funding around electrical training has recently changed, with course updates and
the introduction of a new domestic apprenticeship which requires providers to offer specific
home-based courses to address new technologies around smart home systems.
SWCA, which was set up husband and wife Shane and Nicola McCallum in 2013, believes it is
the first training provider in the South West to be offering these domestic-focused courses.
The academy, which aims to provide smaller class sizes and flexible one-to-one tuition, now
offers a full suite of trades training, alongside the plumbing and gas courses it has run to date.
Mr Smithies is a former tutor with Wiltshire College who previously spent 16 years on the tools
and running his own business.
He will join a team of six tutors in the academy’s 5,500m 2 of offices, teaching rooms and
workshops in St Philips, central Bristol. The centre provides courses for around 100 students in
bi-annual course cohorts at any one time.
“The flexible set-up of an independent college lets us quickly offer these new courses,” he said.
“Most tutors haven’t kept their fingers on the pulse regarding new technologies over the years.
“I believe that home automation is the future of domestic electrical engineering – smart homes
with systems linked to mobile phones are going to be one of the major ways in which we manage our nation’s energy requirements.
“So we’re going to offer both domestic and commercial apprenticeships as well as a range of
short courses – 18th Edition Wiring Regulations, PV solar installations, car charging and
inspection testing – all of which meet the changing need.”
SWCA employs 10 staff – four administrative and management personnel alongside its team of
tutors – to deliver its range of courses in theory and in practice.
The academy has invested in creating a new workshop specifically for electrical engineering,
with space for a dozen students each occupying their own workstations.
Nicola McCallum said: “We are delighted to have secured Paul’s services, to oversee delivery of
the new courses to the cohorts we have starting in November and just before Easter next year.
“We believe we now have one of the strongest tutoring teams in the region, attracted here by the
autonomy and freedom we have as an organisation, to deliver high quality, competent young
professionals into the industry.
“We’re looking forward to working successfully with our partners to continue to meet the need for new skills in gas, heating and electrical engineering.”
Originally based in Cam, Gloucestershire, SWCA moved to Bristol eight years ago. In 2016 it
won a contract with council-backed On Site to enrol local students on to its apprenticeship
courses. The academy is now also in its third year as a main provider, offering courses direct to
employers for around 40 per cent of its intake.
“It’s certainly been a journey,” said Mr McCallum. “And we’re in a good place now. Throughout
we’ve been guided by principles of keeping standards high, with quality of training and the
creation of safe, competent young professionals being of paramount importance.
“We think we’re offering a better solution than what’s normally available, and we’re playing our
part in helping tackle the growing shortage of high quality young tradespeople.”