Securing the workforce of the future

Keith Marshall
Championing the skills agenda of the building-services sector — Keith Marshall on the role of SummitSkills.
Sector skills councils have been set up to champion their industry’s skills agenda, as Keith Marshall of Summitskills explains.ith skills gaps constantly high on the agenda of the building-services industry, what positive steps are being taken to resolve the situation? SummitSkills, the sector skills council for building-services engineering, has five key strategic objectives. • Alleviate skills gaps. • Improve productivity. • Provide career progression. • Develop a competent workforce. • Champion the sector’s skills agenda. To help meet these objectives, the organisation is preparing for a major project that will fundamentally alter the way skills are delivered and developed. A ‘sector skills agreement’ will map out exactly what skills employers need their workforce to have and how these skills will be supplied. The agreement will enable the Government, employers, employee representatives and organisations such as training providers and funding bodies to work together to tackle skills provision. SummitSkills has been charged to facilitate the agreement, but the project is signed up to by everyone who supplies, funds and plans education and training. In simple terms, a sector skills agreement is a deal between employers, training providers, funding agencies and government. Employers lay out what their workforce and skills requirements are now and in the future. In return, the Government and providers agree to fund training tailored to this need, providing employers are also willing to make a commitment. Businesses in the sector have a very important role to play in providing their views on required skills. We hope that as many people as possible will take part when the project begins.’ As well as the sector skills agreement, SummitSkills has been working on a number of other projects to help address workforce requirements that are developing. By liaising with partners at the start of large-scale building projects, steps can be taken in the early stages to plan the skills and personnel before they are needed, rather than wait until there is an immediate demand. SummitSkills is currently working with partners to ensure that the skilled workforce is in place should London win the bid to host the Olympic Games. With an estimated 9000 homes and over 10 000 m2 of stadia required, the preparation carried out now will help ensure that fully trained building-services engineers are available for the construction project. The work undertaken here is also transferable to the Thames Gateway development, which is anticipated to run for over 30 years. To carry its strategic skills planning, SummitSkills needs the involvement of the 55 000 building-services firms that employ the 500 000 people in the sector. We have been created to act as the voice of the employer. By understanding the issues facing each business, we can begin to develop solutions. Through sector skills councils, businesses now have the opportunity to influence skills planning and delivery. We urge as many firms as possible to get involved. To contribute to the work of SummitSkills, telephone 0870 351 4620 or e-mail
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