General Construction 405 views Sep 11, 2018
Making sure we have the skills to deliver

Now that students have opened their A level and GCSE results, it brings a fresh reminder that the construction sector is facing a major skills challenge writes Kevin Bohea. Government has pledged to deliver 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. The issue we have is that we simply don’t have a workforce to achieve this. The sector is also facing questions over the quality to which we build. So what do we need to do to make sure we have a skilled workforce that can deliver high quality buildings that are fit for purpose?

The big challenge is that many people perceive the construction industry as an outdated, uninspiring and manual work based sector- to these people it simply doesn’t seem like a attractive sector in which to find an exciting career. However, for those that work in the sector we know that that couldn’t be further from the truth. The construction sector is exciting, varied, constantly evolving and full of opportunity.

In June, the Government launched the Construction Skills Fund. Part of the government's National Retraining Scheme in England, the scheme aims to support innovative ways of training new entrants and retraining adults in areas for which public funding is not available.It will fund on-site training to allow learners to apply their knowledge in the real-world. The £22 million fund is being administered and implemented by CITB and will run for 18 months. The plan is that employers, housing associations and other interested bodies such as LEPs and local authorities submit expressions of interest. From these submissions, 20 on-site training hubs will be created. This will be on major construction project across England and will provide work experience and placements for people working to join the industry.

On the face of it this seems like a great idea – offering real hand on work experience for young people as well as opportunities for returning adults and those looking for a pathway for a career switch. But does it go far enough to address the bigger issue – that is making the industry appealing for people to want to join in the first place? We still need to overcome our outdated image.

Recticel has created a graduate development programme and a graduate intern programme to help introduce young talent to industry. As a company we invest time engaging with young people to help them understand what we can offer as a business and how a step with us could lead them on to a really fulfilling career in the construction sector. And it’s working. We have a growing intake of young people who are excited the sector offers and who are enthusiastic to learn.

I’m confident that once young people start working in the construction they will get a completely different opinion of it. And – as many of us can relate to – once you start work in the construction sector, you very rarely leave. You may go on to take up different roles (one of the advantages of a diverse sector) but it is unlikely you will change sectors completely.

The Construction Skills Fund is a step in the right direction although I would be interested to understand what happens after the 18 month period - I just hope it isn’t canned in favor of another Government initiative. We can’t keep having one step forward, one step backwards.

Skills is a shared responsibility. If we get it right we can deliver the ambitious targets we have been set and at the same time take a big step forward in terms of improving built quality. Recticel will continue to play its part in attracting the next generation, as well as those returning to work or looking for a career change and I hope that the rest of sector will continue to keep reminding young people construction can be highly rewarding.