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21st August 2018
Focus – Upskilling and Training in the Construction Industry

How new upskilling and training initiatives will help meet construction industry needs

The latest Construction Industry Forecast makes interesting reading. Despite concerns over the economy and the shadow cast by the uncertainty of Brexit, there are some bright spots. Growth markets offering new tendering opportunities include logistics and warehouse space, schools, universities and student accommodation, together with build-to-rent and health-related projects. In the first five months of 2018, research shows that construction projects worth £324m were started, including 2,100 new build-to-rent homes. The government has pledged to increase the residential housing supply, targeting the building of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s.

Construction Skills Certification Scheme changes

In order to meet the demand for skilled labour that projects like these will need, the Construction Skills Certification Scheme has redoubled its efforts in pursuit of a fully qualified workforce. In June, it announced that it would be withdrawing the Construction Site Visitor card by 2020. This follows on from the withdrawal last year of the Construction Related Occupation card. These two cards were the only ones issued without the need for the applicant to achieve a recognised skills qualification.

Historically, workers have applied for the visitor card in line with policies that required entire construction sites to be 100% carded, as opposed to workers being 100% qualified. In future, it is anticipated that if a worker is on site to carry out a construction-related activity, then they will hold the requisite card that’s proof of their training and qualification to carry out the task. If a worker is there to perform a role which isn’t construction-related, then the site supervisor or manager will be responsible for ensuring that they are properly supervised and remain safe at all times.

Boosting construction skills training

The newly-appointed Minister of State for Housing, Kit Malthouse, will like his predecessors be looking to the construction industry to help tackle the UK’s housing shortage. Skills Minister, Anne Milton, has unveiled proposals that will prove a major boost in tackling the current skills gap. With 157,000 new recruits forecast to be needed in the UK construction industry over the next five years, her launch of a £22m Construction Skills Fund that will help deliver much-needed training initiatives direct to constructions sites, is widely regarded as a very positive move.

The thinking behind on-site training is that it allows learners to apply what they’ve been taught, using their new skills in a real-life environment. It is also hoped that the Scheme will result in trainees being site-ready sooner, and will offer the right type of support to encourage older workers who are thinking of joining the industry. The Scheme, which will be administered by the Construction Industry Training Board, will also offer work experience and placements for workers who want to join the industry, such as the currently unemployed, and those looking for a change of career direction.

Meeting the challenge

One of the key challenges the construction sector faces is attracting young people into an industry that most will be unfamiliar with. Whilst recent TV programmes covering construction projects such as Crossrail and HS2, and media coverage of proposed projects such as the third runway at Heathrow are all playing a part in highlighting the UK’s drive to embark on major infrastructure initiatives, more needs to be done. People and businesses within the industry need to engage with schools and colleges to showcase the range of trades and skilled roles that are now widely available to both men and women.

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