Building for the future — part 1

Skills shortages and skills gaps encapsulate the two greatest concerns of the building-services sector in its need to ensure adequate capacity and capability to deliver projects in the future. Let’s face it, the average age of people in the industry is increasing — and one of the main reasons is that younger people are not entering the industry. Even those organisations with programmes for recruiting and training large numbers of apprentices are experiencing limitations to their future business-development plans — as emerges in the feature on prefabrication and off-site manufacture (OSM) in this issue of Modern Building Services (starting on page 17). As part of its business strategy and plans for future development, one contractor in particular considered the role of prefabrication and OSM. That was five years ago, and subsequent experience has shown that what has been good for this contractor’s own business development offers benefits throughout the supply chain — right through to the client. The premise underpinning OSM is that working on site requires operatives with much higher skill levels than if the same work can be carried out in a factory environment. Transferring work to a factory environment also sharply reduces the number of operatives required on site and the length of time they need to be there. Our features abounds with good news about the potential for OSM. But the good news is tempered with two words of warning. The first is that people, being people, are hesitant in their acceptance of OSM. The second is that OSM cannot work unless there is a culture change in the industry to finish the design and freeze it before OSM commences.

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