BSRIA expresses concerns about future skills

BSRIA, skills shortage
Concerned about skills — BSRIA chief executive Julia Evans.

BSRIA has expressed major concerns about the future level of skills across the construction industry against a background of too few apprentices being trained and a concern that science A-levels will be cut due to a ‘cash squeeze’ as a result of financial pressures. The issues are summarised in a white paper on ‘Bridging the skills gap, which asks, ‘What does our industry need from Government to recruit new entrants, upskill the existing workforce and change the diversity of the workforce?’

The white paper was written by Jeremy Towler, senior manager, energy and smart technologies, BSRIA Worldwide Market Intelligence. It notes that it is widely recognised that the construction industry has resourcing and skills issues. There are seen to be four root causes.

• Too many in government do not have an engineering background and so are disconnected from industry.

• Schools do not start early on to inform students about engineering.

• There is poor linkage between schools and further education through technical colleges and apprenticeships.

• There is poor communication by our industry about what engineering is and the value it adds to our economy.

Julia Evans, chief executive of BSRIA, said: ‘Schools need to be incentivised on the number of students they get into apprenticeships and technical colleges, and not just the number that they get into university.

‘We need to move the focus away from one of being a construction industry to one focused on the built environment. This will help to make it more attractive to young people who, for example, have grown up with software gaming and modelling.’

She added: ‘Government can help ensure that apprenticeships are not just an excuse for cheap labour, but are well-structured and prepare individuals for a meaningful and rewarding career.’

Talking about science A-levels, Julia Evans said, ‘Funding for the sciences is crucial for the qualifications and skills required for our future engineers. Government needs to think proactively and long-term about this — which doesn’t appear to be the case right now. A reduction in such funding is certainly a false economy when businesses are struggling to find the talent they need.

‘It’s simply short-sightedness not to invest in science. Outlook for our economy relies on students progressing to engineering, and it is unwise to reduce such funding.

‘There is a social responsibility to invest in young people. They are tomorrow’s workforce.’

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