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Shaping the future construction industry

A collaborative approach between industry stakeholders, education professionals and Government is needed to shape the future of education for the UK construction industry, writes Roy Cavanagh MBE, training and Education Executive at Seddon Construction and Chairman of the construction industry’s 14-19 Advisory Committee.

Vocational qualifications and training have come under much scrutiny in the last few years, as the debate still rages as to whether they have a place in our modern curriculum for 14-19 year olds. Set against the backdrop of the Government’s review of vocational qualifications, some still see this educational route as ‘second rate’ compared to the more ‘academic’ paths offered by the GCSE and the Baccalaureate.

However, vocational qualifications are the life blood of many UK industries where a large proportion of any work that is carried out requires people with practical hands-on skills as well as theoretical knowledge. With this in mind it is vital that we continue to support them in today’s 14-19 curriculum.

The key to supporting vocational qualifications is to adopt an approach which looks to continuously assess and improve them via a collaboration between education specialists, industry employers and representatives from other stakeholder organisations. By improving the standards and range of vocational qualifications on offer, we can ensure that they meet the needs of employers, and, most importantly, the needs of the people undertaking them.

The UK construction industry is certainly one industry that needs a solid foundation of workers who have an aptitude for practical application and technical knowledge. In an ever-changing industry where construction methods and techniques are evolving rapidly, vocational qualifications and training are vital. With an ever increasing skills gap added to the mix, it is imperative that we act now to safeguard these qualifications.

In order to do this, we set up a 14-19 Advisory Committee in late 2012.With the funding and support of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) the committee has members drawn from the construction industry, awarding bodies, school and college leaders, employers, professional bodies and trade associations.

The Committee’s remit is to oversee the development of gold standard construction apprenticeships and vocational qualifications for 14-19 year olds to   meet the needs of a hi-tech, world class industry with outstanding career prospects.

In addition the committee also aims to be a key adviser to Government on the way  construction qualifications can be used to their full potential in the 14-19 curriculum and has recently launched a consultation  on the set of standards for Construction and the Built Environment (C&BE) qualifications.

This process and, getting the standards right for vocational qualifications, is extremely important in the context of the new construction based University Technical Colleges (UTC) and studio school sectors. Employers are increasingly looking for young peoples with ‘work ready skills’. If the UTCs and studio schools are to meet this demand they need access to the relevant qualifications and materials. The 14-19 Advisory Committee has a key role to play in ensuring that these are available, which is why it has set up two specialist sub-groups to focus on UTCs and qualifications and standards.

We believe that the construction 14-19 Advisory Committee is an exemplar for other industry sectors on the best way to get to grips with delivering an effective skills pipelines. The collaborative approach we have adopted by involving industry organisations, employers and members of the education sector is having a significant impact on developing the right qualifications for 14-19 year olds.

By ensuring that learners are embarking on relevant, high quality C&BE qualifications, we are essentially safe guarding the future of the UK construction industry and ensuring that skills gaps are reduced both now and in the future.

Roy Cavanagh is training and education executive at Seddon Construction and chairman of the construction industry’s 14-19 advisory committee

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