9 August 2016

Our Chance to Transform Industry Training

With the Government recently publishing the Post-16 Skills Plan and the Construction News Summit on the horizon, Suzannah Nichol tells Construction News what needs to be done to transform the way we recruit, train, qualify and retain a capable workforce for the next generation and beyond.

Reforming the Skills Infrastructure

Build UK has the challenge of ensuring that both construction training and qualifications meet the needs of employers, and that sufficient employment and apprenticeship opportunities are available to maintain a skilled and professional workforce.

This ambition is reflected in the recently published Post-16 Skills Plan which sets out the Government’s vision for the skills system following a comprehensive review of technical education in the UK.

I do believe that employers will welcome the plan which recognises that we need to rebuild the whole training structure to deliver qualifications that both provide the skills and knowledge required by employees.

Recognition of Failings

The plan states “there are serious problems with the existing systems” … it is “over complex” and “fails to provide the skills most needed for the 21st century” and calls for a “fundamental shift”  to “systematically reform technical education for the long term”. As an example of just how confusing the current situation is, the report states there are over 21,000 qualifications offered by 158 awarding organisations, while in our industry, individuals aiming for a future in plumbing have to choose between 33 qualifications.

There is a massive opportunity for construction to pool all of its collective knowledge, experience and resources and commit to major changes in the way it develops qualifications, delivers training, and uses the CITB levy.

Technical Training

A framework made up of just 15 routes covering the key industrial sectors is proposed and one of those sectors is construction. The first year of each apprenticeship would be common across the sector with subsequent years covering the specialist requirements of each occupation. 

Build UK has already piloted a common Core Apprenticeship with Leeds College of Building which has generated interest and support from employers, trade association and colleges across the UK offering the industry the ability to increase the number and viability of both traditional and specialist apprenticeships in construction.

Young People

The review also addressed the employability of young people. This is an age group that construction employers often say are too immature or too difficult to employ on construction sites. In reality, the capabilities of young people in Maths and English have been lacking and the training and qualification routes are so complex for individuals, parents and employers that it is easier to take on more mature workers with transferable skills.

The Skills Plan proposes a range of measures to support the 200,000 young people that enter full time vocational or technical study each year and clearly states “we cannot continue to let so many work their way through a succession of often low-level, low-value qualifications that lead at best to low-skilled, low-paid employment. Securing a step-change in technical education is vital for the productivity of this country; employers have specific training needs which the education system must source.”

If these issues were addressed, construction employers would quickly be able to offer more apprenticeships. In response to Construction 2025 and with the support of the CLC, Build UK has published an easy to read guide on employing young people and with the need for more than 40,000 workers in construction each year it is in everyone’s interest to offer more employment opportunities at all levels.

Construction Recognised

The report also contains many other points that Build UK members and other employers will recognise and support. At long last it really feels like Government has been listening. Better careers advice, the recruitment of mentors to support young people in fulfilling their potential, facilitating external organisations to talk directly to pupils about apprenticeships will help lead to less complexity, clearer options, higher standards and greater consistency across schools and colleges.

For construction there are a number of specific mentions; not only as one of the 15 technical routes, but also as one of the specific areas of the economy identified as subject to skills pressures. As a result the ‘Farmer Review’ led by the Construction Leadership Council with a specific focus on skills in construction will receive a response from Government.

CITB Review

With our own Training Board, an industry levy & grant scheme and a spotlight on skills, we must not miss this chance to fundamentally reform the way we recruit, train, qualify and retain a capable workforce for the next generation and beyond.

But let’s not do what we normally do and everyone decide what would work for them.

We have an amazing opportunity at the CN Summit Skills Hack hosted by Build UK on 11 & 12 October to determine what would really work for our industry and who is the best placed to deliver. Then we need to work collectively and collaboratively to deliver such a monumental change that we fix our own skills infrastructure and make it truly world class.

Things you can do now:

• Read the Post-16 Skills Plan
• Support Build UK’s and CBI’s call to delay the Apprenticeship Levy
• Commit yourself to a collaborative industry approach to reforming our skills infrastructure
• Book your place at the CN Summit Skills Hack.