Burnley College Themis apprentices helping to shape £23m. Pioneer Place

Young people in Burnley are shaping the development of the £23 million Pioneer Place retail and leisure scheme, which is due to open in autumn 2023.

The project is being built by Burnley Council’s development partner Maple Grove Developments, part of the Eric Wright Group. It will include a seven-screen REEL cinema, five retail and leisure units and a 226-space carpark.

And the group have shown their commitment to young people by recruiting Themis apprentices and offering valuable work experience opportunities, working closely with Burnley College students to allow learners regular access on-site to gain knowledge about how developments of this size progress.

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Iqra Shafqat (17) is currently on a work experience placement to learn about site management. She is studying Advanced Level Construction and the Built Environment at Burnley College Sixth Form Centre. She works with Eric Wright on the Pioneer site one a day a week.

Burnley College students at Pioneer Place

“I’m the first in my family to go into site management. As a young female in construction I’ve not faced any preconceptions about going into what may be seen as a male-dominated role. It’s been a really positive experience.”

The second apprentice taken on by the Eric Wright Group is Thomas Astley (17) who is an apprentice joiner. Thomas trains at Themis at Burnley College one day a week, then spends four days at Pioneer Place gaining valuable skills and experience.

“I’m also staying on until the end of the project – big projects are what I want to work on. In fact, my grandad is a joiner and at some point during the build he will come on site to carry out work, so it’ll be good to work together.”

In October, students on vocational and T-Level construction programmes were taken round the site by Peter Harrison, project manager for Pioneer Place. The visit enables students to put health and safety into context, see the various boarding techniques used, as well as get a closer look at the steelwork and subfloor.

Peter said: “Along with our partners, such as Smith Love Planning Consultants, AEW Architects and Booth King Structural Engineers, we’ve also gone into college to present on topics such as the role of planning in shaping the design and the survey work and site preparation.

“We’re also working with the food bank initiative led by Burnley FC in the Community, which has been a great partnership too.”

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David Lord, head of Burnley College’s Centre for Construction and Future Technologies, said: “Many thanks to the Eric Wright Group for facilitating this great learning experience for our students. We pride ourselves on offering industry-focussed opportunities for all students and the chance to see their learning come to life on such a prestigious project was invaluable.”

It is estimated the construction of Pioneer Place will support around 180 jobs, with a further 100-plus new jobs being created in the cinema and supporting food outlets.

Coun. Mark Townsend, Burnley Council's executive member for economy and growth, said: “It's fantastic that young people are getting this opportunity to learn new skills on an active building site and help create this exciting new development. When they go to the cinema they can tell their friends ‘I helped build this.’ How great is that.”