From education to employment

Training a new workforce: Tackling Merseyside’s Construction Skills Shortages

Sandra Kirkham, Managing Director of Progress to Excellence Group and Chair of Wirral Chamber of Commerce

TRAINING and up-skilling a new workforce from disadvantaged groups in the local community could be key to plugging skills gaps for Merseyside’s construction sector.

Sandra Kirkham, Managing Director of Progress to Excellence Group and Chair of Wirral Chamber of Commerce, told the Liverpool City Region Construction Skills Summit that such a move could provide a huge and diverse talent pool of employees to address looming skills shortages.

Companies taking on and retraining prison leavers, armed forces veterans and the socially disadvantaged, she said, would be a lifeline for new building projects in the region under threat from a lack of construction workers.

Sandra said: “We have a recruitment problem in the construction sector in Liverpool City Region, one which has massive implications on the delivery of projects and the cost.

“We are already using construction workers from across the UK and Europe so we have to train and up-skill more local people to fill key construction roles.

“However, no one should be prevented from becoming part of this vital labour force because of background. For instance, many prison leavers deserve a second chance – they have paid their dues and should be allowed to integrate back into society by getting a job.”

The Liverpool City Region Construction Skills Summit was run by BusinessCloud in conjunction with Progress to Excellence Group, a company which has already successfully trained, employed and secured alternative employment for individuals who have been socially and economically disadvantaged in their communities.

Sandra shared a platform with Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region Combined Authority; Asif Hamid MBE, chair of Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership; Tom Powell, Managing Director of Complete Training Solutions; Wendy Smith, Partnership Manager at Liverpool CITB; Sara Lawton, director of Construction Impact Framework; Dr Paul Jones, Development Manager at Capital & Centric, and Mark Lawler, Managing Director of Baltic Creative CIC.

Steve Rotheram has already warned that thousands more construction workers are needed by Liverpool City Region in the coming years to meet the demand of future build projects such as the Liverpool Waters and Wirral Waters projects along with new housing and office developments.

The sector has contributed more than £25 billion (GVA) to the region’s renaissance over the past 20 years and predictions are there could be another £1 billion per year of construction activity by 2040.

In a region of 1.5 million people, only 47,000 work in the construction industry and, according to the Construction Industry Training Board, more than 65,000 construction workers are required for the foreseeable future, an increase of 18,000.

Sandra added: “Getting more young people excited by the opportunity to work in construction is vital but a real pipeline of construction workers can also be created by retraining veterans from our armedforces, prison leavers and socially disadvantaged people from within our communities.

“I am proud to be leading a group of businesses that have the agility to respond to market needs and, at the same time, promote social mobility in the construction sector.

“No single business, college, training provider or local authority provides the solution to the skills needs in construction so we must collaborate for the good of our region and provide smart, bespoke solutions for employers and employees in a timely manner.” 

Tom Powell, whose Complete Training Solutions company is part of Progress to Excellence Group, said that, as a training organisation operating across multiple sectors, his business had a clear view of upcoming skills demands within a number of growth industries.

Tom said: “At present, we are working closely with our client base to develop new, bespoke training courses which fit the exact needs of their workforce as their requirements become more specific.

“An example of this is our Waterside Construction Safety course which has become more important as major projects in Liverpool City Region are being built close to water on reclaimed land.”

Lynn Lock, Managing Director of Innovative Alliance, also part of Progress to Excellence Group, agreed that partnership working was key to tackling skills shortages and added: “The construction skills gap in Liverpool City Region presents an opportunity for collaboration from a wide range of regional stakeholders to attract, engage, develop and deploy new talent into the construction sector.

“Increased social mobility is at the heart of Innovative Alliance and we are working with jobseekers and those on low incomes to drive ambition and skills through experiential learning and jobs.”

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