Training – now is the time

A serious skills shortage is hampering our industry's ability to take advantage of a growing market. 

BESA’s president Malcolm Thomson recently commented that skills shortages are threatening the industry’s ability to grasp the opportunities offered by an uplift in the market. He’s spot on.

There has never been a more important time for the construction industry to engage better with training. Firstly, there is the development of Trailblazer Apprenticeship Standards. These are a great idea because they allow employer groups (for example trade associations) to develop apprenticeships that are based on exactly what the employers are looking for in their young employees.

It has never before been possible for company representatives from one industry to sit down as a group and decide what constitute useful skills, knowledge and behaviours for their sector. If you don’t know what Apprenticeship Standards are out there for your sector, there is a list of occupations available on the government’s Skills Funding Agency (SFA) website.

From personal experience, I can say the process of thrashing out what should be in the Standard with a group of association members isn’t easy. But it is definitely worth the time and effort.

The second key reason industry should engage with training more at this time is because of a growing disillusionment among young people with the ‘traditional’ A level to University route. The cost alone is off-putting and now it looks set to rise again. What’s more, the days when a degree would guarantee a lifetime of higher salaries are also looking more like a thing of the past too.

Young people may not have a lot of worldly experience, but they’re not daft. If they can see a good alternative to University that offers them a paying job; nationally-recognised qualifications; and a long-term future, then they’re happy to divert to another route. The new approach to apprenticeships offers just that.

Another important point to bear in mind is that the construction industry is still overlooking young women employees. BESA, IMechE and a number of other leading organisations have pointed out that the engineering sector is missing out on half the population as potentially great employees. Women are very under-represented in the UK engineering sector, with our country lying way behind Spain and Italy in levels of female employment in the industry.

Government is still wavering about when the new training levy will be introduced at time of writing, however this also offers a good opportunity for companies of all sizes to have a sizeable percentage of apprenticeship training paid for.

This means that if your sector has set up its Apprenticeship Standard right, then most of the training required should be eligible for government financial support. Another great incentive to think about bringing more young people into the industry. Time for out sector to take its pick of the brightest and best, because we need them as much as they need us.

Karen Fletcher is Director of Keystone Communications. 

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