From education to employment

ConstructionSkills on sustaining the workforce

Understanding and responding to change within our industry is important to us, and at ConstructionSkills, we are looking at the future needs of our industry and planning accordingly.

Our industry is continually evolving, with changing needs, and one area where change has occurred so determinedly is in sustainability.

Whether we’re talking about the design and manufacture of construction products, approaches to planning, building and construction methods, or repair & maintenance, sustainability is now, and will continue to be ever more so, at the heart of everything industry does.

The catalyst for this sustainable revolution will, without a doubt, be innovation across the board. That involves how we think, how we plan and how we execute.

The construction industry is facing numerous challenges during the economic downturn. But, despite often being one of the first industries to be hit by hard times, the construction industry is usually the first to recover and firms will need to prioritise training and skills to stay ahead of the competition, in preparation for the upturn. Not only that, they will have to revise their current training priorities and look at emerging trends and industry approaches. That being said, sustainability is by no means a trend; it is very much here to stay.

So who will help us drive the sustainable revolution? Buy-in from all concerned is essential, that is clear. But it is the next generation of construction workers that will propel this agenda and we have to provide them with the building blocks, so to speak, to do this.

Apprentices are essentially a cost-effective way to enhance your workforce. ConstructionSkills has introduced a number of initiatives to make it as easy as possible for employers to recruit trainees, with additional financial incentives available for those who take on formerly displaced apprentices, on top of grant funding which employers may be entitled to. Young apprentices can also help employers to replenish firms’ skills, as well as increase productivity and assist in planning for the future on large-scale projects.

Additional benefits are gained with apprentices that are recruited through the Apprenticeship Matching Service, a scheme set up by ConstructionSkills with the Government to preserve the industry’s existing apprentices. Formerly displaced trainees that have had previous on-site experience, before they were laid off, are keen, dedicated and require less time investment, as they have already received an intensive period of job-specific training.

We are not only aiming to build a workforce that delivers sustainable building projects, we’re also looking into how we can actually sustain our current crop of young workers, who are really feeling the effects of our current economic climate.

It’s also important to note that employers aren’t the only ones to benefit from sustaining their workforce in this way. Without on-site experience, apprentices’ training is limited to the classroom. The apprenticeship model is an effective amalgamation of college training and practical application with key-learnings given job context. Apprentices, when working for an employer, have exposure to industry knowledge and have a deep, detailed understanding of the trade and business. In return, employers gain an extra pair of well-trained hands to help them free up their seniors for larger projects, who they can trust to carry out certain jobs to their liking.

ConstructionSkills works continuously to develop training solutions to drive the sustainability agenda and is committed to supporting construction firms’ moves to become more sustainable, whilst putting themselves in the best position for work. For example, Site Sustainability Simplified is an invaluable course run by the National Construction College (NCC), Europe’s largest construction training provider, for all employees that can help firms to run as efficiently as possible, in every way.

Delivering on key issues like sustainability is paramount in the construction industry; we have an opportunity, as well as an obligation, to lead the way in methods of sustainable construction. To sustain our industry, we must sustain the workforce and equip employees with the means of learning new building techniques. This will only be possible through investment by all those concerned; Government, business, individuals. We are all ultimately responsible for giving the whole workforce, but especially young people, the opportunities they need to contribute to the sustainable revolution that I, like many others, am relishing seeing unfold.

Mike Bialyj is employer services director for ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council for the construction industry


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