Skip to main content

A £4.3 Million gateway to the future

Connolly Centre

Access to skilled jobs from apprentices to degree-level roles, will be opened via the Connolly Centre of Modern Construction (CCMC) at Bedford College.

The shiny £4.3 Million net carbon building has been made possible by funding via regional agency SEMLEP of £2.9 Million. The £4.3 Million includes £750,000 donated by the Connolly Foundation towards the very latest construction equipment inside the building. The Wixamtree Trust also donated £10,000.

Declared open by Mark Farmer, the Government’s champion of Modern Methods of Construction, on Wednesday October 20th, the CCMC contains some highly-specialised equipment on which up to 100 will train for jobs, or upgrade their existing skills to match up to emerging ‘modern methods of construction’.

Ian Pryce CBE, CEO of The Bedford College Group (TBCG): “ We are closing that gap which we see between what happens in industries, and what is taught in college.”

Mark Farmer congratulated Ian and TBCG team for their vision in building the dream:

“This facility will be helping to re-shape how we deliver construction in the future. It meets the Government agenda for skills and sustainability and I can see it being an exemplar for the rest of the country.

“Leadership has made this possible with Ian and The Bedford College Group being well placed to support the demand for skills in London and the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.”

Judith Barker Director of SEMLEP congratulated TBCG and said this was a pioneer of such construction training buildings planned.


State of the Art equipment 

Howick Frama 5600 metal profiling machine to produce metal components ready for self-assembly (Biggest investment in college construction training equipment *)

An industry standard gantry crane to lift components of up to 3.2 tonnes

JJ Smith automated cross cut and sliding saw

The CCMC also includes a computer-aided design suite linked to the Virtual Reality “cave”, funded previously by the Connolly Foundation, and housed on campus in the Advanced Engineering Buchanan Centre.


Net Zero Carbon

It is expected the building will receive an official A+ on its energy performance certificate making this The Group’s first Net Zero Carbon building.

The exterior of the CCMC complements the shiny look of the adjoining corner-site Brundtland Building, itself a pioneering example of eco-retro fitting. The stylish silver and grey colour scheme is highlighted across the Cauldwell Street/Riverside campus which blends one of the very oldest buildings in Bedford* with the latest in modern, green construction techniques.

*College House on the corner of Cauldwell Street and St Mary’s is said to be the oldest brick-built building in Bedford. Its style was replicated in the design of the new Stansfeld Building which forms part of the Eastern frontage of the college campus.


Exhibition of Employers

Following the official opening which included a tour of the building, an exhibition of employers who will support and benefit from the skilled workforce created at the CCMC was held:

  • Modular Building Automation
  • Sika
  • Passive Purple
  • Beattie Passive
  • L&Q
  • Stewart Milne
  • Sika
  • E3Recruitment
  • Excel Structures
  • Intelligent Membranes
  • Timber Development UK
  • Trussed Rafter Association

Winning team of contractors

Ashe Construction, part of the Ashe Group of Hitchin, Herts, led a highly skilled team toward the completion of the project.

Devonshire Architects led by Stuart Devonshire

Cheshire Mechanical and Electrical Contractors

Retrofit (UK) aluminium cladding contractors.


Key links:




Ashe staff.

“Having just entered my second and final year, I am hoping to become a site manager in the construction industry and when ASHE approached the college about the opportunity for students to shadow the site managers, Danny Roberts and Neil Dimond, I was eager to take up the opportunity.”

Biggest investment in building technology

Probably the biggest single purchase of construction training equipment made by The Bedford College Group arrived from  New Zealand to its new home at the CCMC.

The £300,000 Howick FRAMATM 5600 is a high-tech roll-forming machine that manufactures steel framing by combining software, firmware with hardware, which makes building possible in less time, with more precision and efficiency. As part of the offsite, smart build and MMC movement, the Howick FRAMATM series is driven by accurate computer control and using CAD technology, to turn slit metal coil into steel framing components ready for assembly into frames, trusses, floor cassettes and walls.

Dubbed as the 3-D printer for framing, the Howick technology is being used successfully in the offsite manufacturing sector of the UK construction industry. Having access to such high tech and up to date equipment will mean students and apprentices at the College will get a chance to learn and experience tested industrialised construction to allow them to gain the skills needed for the workplace.

Said Director of Construction David Wilkins: “We are seriously excited to have this sort of equipment at our new specialist Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Centre. Being experienced in the use of this sort of gear will give our students a hard-hat head-start when it comes to employability skills in the modern construction industry.”


On site experience for Adam, 17

Adam Boag, aged 17, from Luton is  studying a ‘Level 3 Technical and Professional Construction Extended Diploma’ at Bedford College. He took up the chance to shadow contractors ASHE to see how the old Cauldwell Street building was transformed into the CCMC. He spoke at the official opening on October 20th of the value gained from his training at college and its links with industry.

“Having just entered my second and final year, I am hoping to become a site manager in the construction industry and when ASHE approached the college about the opportunity for students to shadow the site managers, Danny Roberts and Neil Dimond, I was eager to take up the opportunity.

“I’ve always been interested in construction as I grew up in a family which was heavily involved in the industry with my Grandad having his own construction and civil engineering company based in Arlesey, and my Dad working for him for 20 years as a contracts manager.  At high school, I took construction as an option for my GCSE’s, and in this I covered the basics for various trades (Bricklaying, Carpentry, Electrics, Plastering and Plumbing) as well as looking at basic health and safety in construction.

“On my first day with ASHE Ian Berrie (Health, Safety & Environmental Manager) gave me a site health and safety induction. This outlined various procedures that must be followed to maintain standards on a construction site, and also at the time, Covid precautions that were present on site. This, as well as many other details about H & S  on a construction site were all fresh in my mind as we had recently concluded the health and safety module on my college course. 

“Another advantage I had was having an understanding of the foundations and structure of the main workshop extension, as we studied various structure and foundation types in the construction technology module in my course.

“It was very interesting talking with the people working for Retrofit and Cheshire Contracting Limited, the cladding and M&E contractors respectively. Given that M&E systems are a vital part of any project of this nature, it was very useful to be able to grasp a basic understanding of them while on site.

“At the end of each week I spent a day away from the site at Bedford College, on the first I spent all day at ASHE’s head office in Hitchin, with the planning team, quantity surveyors and document control, as well as Andrew Morris, the commercial director of ASHE. 

“This exposure to the other roles involved in a project dispelled some misconceptions I had. For example, I thought quantity surveyors spent all their time in an office counting numbers, whereas after speaking at length with Sam Figgins (Quantity Surveyor), I found out that they also spend time on site, liaising with clients and the site manager(s).

“On the second day I sat in on a health and safety meeting Ian Berrie and Martin Petts (Construction & SHE Manager), before Andrew took me to visit the Thornhill Primary school project in Houghton Regis. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at ASHE, all those who I came across were welcoming and more than happy to answer any questions. Having met so many people in varying disciplines furthered my knowledge into their profession and gave me a greater understanding of how everyone’s roles and responsibilities work hand in hand. 

“Furthermore, being given the opportunities to see a project from the site-based, office-based and clients’ points of view was fascinating because each has its own challenges and their own ways of resolving them. During my time at ASHE I was shown how problems have to be resolved and how the priorities of a site manager change in an instant, something that has to be witnessed to be truly appreciated, something that can’t be taught in a classroom.”


What else is going on?

The latest from The Bedford College Group

View more