BESA calls for more investment in skills to deliver Government construction ambitions

BESA, skills, training

The Government must prioritise skills and innovation if it is to improve productivity and deliver the housing and infrastructure projects highlight in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, according to the Building Services Engineering Services Association (BESA). The association welcomes the announcement of a new ‘pipeline’ of projects through the Government’s planning framework. It also applauds the focus on improving productivity, which is at the heart of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s economic ambitions.

Paul McLaughlin, chief executive of BESA (pictured), said, ‘The focus on growth and infrastructure spending is very welcome, and in order to be able to deliver the proposed workload this needs to be accompanied by very specific investment in skills and R&D. The Chancellor is right to identify productivity as a priority, and that means we need a truly diverse and multi-skilled workforce delivering projects to a very high standard.

‘More support for STEM [science, technology, engineering and maths] training is the element Mr Hammond should add to complete the productivity, project delivery and business-growth jigsaw.’

The Government’s own labour-market survey has identified a 25 000 gap in the construction workforce that has to be filled in order to deliver ‘shovel-ready’ projects. Mr McLaughlin observes, ‘That has to be addressed before we can even start to consider future plans.’

Paul McLaughlin also points out that some contractors are already passing up opportunities to tender for projects because they don’t have the skilled workforce available. He adds, ‘If there is also to be a restriction on the amount of labour available from the EU, then growing our own through apprenticeships and upskilling existing workers becomes an even more pressing priority.

‘Therefore the funding mechanisms for apprenticeships — the new Trailblazers in particular — need to be clearly defined, projected and extended.’

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