The skills of over 30 plastering students from Northumberland College are benefitting from a national partnership with one of the UK’s leading providers of manufacturing materials.

The Level 1, 2 and 3 Diploma in Plastering students, aged between 16 to 19 are gaining real working experience in using a range of industry materials and products donated by British Gypsum.

Northumberland College is one of seventy colleges and universities located up and down the country who form part of the ‘Thistle Partnership’ set up by British Gypsum; and to qualify, the learning establishments need to meet various key criteria.

The scheme has gold, silver and bronze categories and the students at Northumberland College have achieved ‘silver status’ which is a privileged accolade to accomplish.

British Gypsum, part of the Saint-Gobain group, are recognised as the UK’s leading manufacturer of interior lining systems.

“We are over the moon to be working in partnership with British Gypsum. It represents all of the hard work being achieved by the students and staff at the College, and for the course to be recognised in this way is a real honour,” said David Hancock, tutor on the Diploma in Plastering course.

David added: “The experience the students are gaining from using these materials in live projects is priceless for their development. We try to get the students involved with genuine assignments around the College and they also improve their plastering techniques by using the practice walls. These innovative skills will hopefully benefit the students in helping them achieve their career goals and impress employers when it comes to securing employment.

“Also, in September this year, we are introducing a new Technical Plastering Diploma which will closer meet industry needs, and prepare our students to be job ready.”

The added benefits for the students from being associated with the Thistle Partnership is the chance for them to network with other nationally-based students and share their experiences, plus accessing the e-learning hub which contains practical videos, literature and technical support.

Joss Walker, Level 2 Diploma in Plastering student, aged 25, works for The Gateshead Housing Company and lives in Newcastle. He said: “Every day is different studying on the plastering course as we learn the latest techniques and use new materials. The experience I’m picking up means that if someone asks me to plaster in a particular way, I’ll be able to know what methods to apply.”

Elliot Walker, aged 19, Level 2 Diploma in Plastering student, lives in Gateshead and works as a plasterer for Newcastle City Council. He said: “It’s good to have the chance to try out various industry standard plastering styles and materials like Magnetic Plaster and DuraFinish. We also work in groups and skim together which is useful for team building.

“What I’m learning at College will give me added confidence when at work or even if I ever branch out in years to come and work for myself. I’ll be assured in the knowledge I know how to deliver what people ask for.”

For the team at Northumberland College to qualify for silver status they had to enter the ‘skillbuild’ competition of which they came first in the last two regional heats; take part with enrichment activities at British Gypsum; enter the national Plasterer Awards; and be regular participants on the e-learning hub.

David Kehoe, national technical and training representative for British Gypsum, said: “British Gypsum are making a big difference in the construction industry by supporting students all over the UK who are involved in qualifications to become the next generation of plasterers. We want to encourage this learning and help to address the current skills gap within the construction industry by providing market leading and industry relevant training services and support.

“We are proud to work with Northumberland College and all of the partnership colleges by providing them with materials, educational literature and support they require, to give the plasterers of the future the best possible training.  With the proper support and access to materials young people can achieve great things in our industry.  It’s a great achievement that Northumberland College has achieved silver status and we look forward to working closely with them throughout the year.”