CITB seeks to boost offsite construction

CITB, offsite construction, prefabrication

Offsite construction could revolutionise the construction industry and provide a solution to the UK housing shortage, but only if the sector develops the right skills, according to a report* from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The report shows that 42% of construction-industry companies with over 100 staff expect to use offsite methods in five years’ time. At present, however, offsite construction accounts for just 10% of industry output.

The report also reveals that nearly half of construction-industry clients expect the use of offsite construction to increase over the next five years. Offsite processes save time and money and can improve quality through prefabrication of components — from panels to fully fitted rooms.

The report follows the recommendations set out in the Government-backed review of UK construction by industry expert Mark Farmer. He says, ‘The report comes at a crucial time for the construction industry. The urgency for modernisation has never been greater, set against an insidious backdrop of an aging workforce and increasing concerns about the impact of Brexit.

‘Any strategic shift towards pre-manufacturing and offsite construction causes an immediate requirement to define our future skills needs through collaboration between industry, educators, training providers and Government.

‘This is crucial to ensuring we can transition to a higher-productivity, digitally enabled industry which inherently attracts more of the young talent we so desperately need. It should also set out clear opportunities for the existing construction workforce and, indeed, workers from other industries to reskill through a new family of career pathways.’

Steve Radley, director of policy at CITB, said, ‘There is a massive potential for offsite construction. The greatest potential currently lies within the housing and commercial sectors, where mass customisation can create the buildings we need more quickly and to higher standard.

The report outlines six key skills areas related to offsite construction.

• digital design

• estimating/commercial

• offsite manufacturing

• logistics

• site management and integration

• onsite placement and assembly

Increasingly, workers will need the skills to move between offsite and onsite environments, so the training for these six areas must evolve to meet the changing demand.

Significant barriers currently exist that prevent the delivery of training and skills to meet the needs of these crucial areas. One is that existing training does not include the required offsite content. Another is that the lack of awareness and suitability of available training and qualifications is leading to companies delivering their own ‘in-house’ training, which leads to non-standard approaches.

Steve Radley concludes, ‘Successful offsite management hinges on the effective integration of both onsite and offsite functions, and this requires a comprehensive understanding of both aspects.’

* ‘Faster, smarter, more efficient: building skills for offsite construction’ can be downloaded from the CITB web site., then search for ‘offsite construction report’

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