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Opinion: Collaboration - the cure for the construction skills gap

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Opinion: Collaboration - the cure for the construction skills gap

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Development

Collaboration: The cure for the construction skills gap Collaboration: The cure for the construction skills gap

By Mike Brogan, chief executive, National Social Housing Regeneration Consortium

The press has been awash with the announcement that there is to be a commission on apprenticeships – a board set up to investigate the quality and number of apprenticeships being taken up in the construction industry.

The cross-party commission, set to be co-chaired by Labour’s Lord Glasman and Conservative MP Robert Halfon, will receive funding through the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

Focused primarily on improving opportunities within the construction sector, the group will also consider the current climate for apprenticeships in the UK and how we can all ensure that red-tape is minimised and investment maximised.

Putting it into context

This announcement follows hot on the heels of a report from the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) that there are approximately one million NEETS (young people not in employment, education or training) in the UK. It is estimated that by 2018 there will be around 182,000 construction jobs that they could be filling.

While we welcome this renewed focus on NEETS and apprenticeships with open arms and enthusiasm, the only way to solve the significant shortage of construction apprenticeships - and the widening skills gap - is for the government, CITB, clients and contractors to work together.

By taking equal responsibility and combining efforts, a sustainable, long-term action plan can be devised. Perhaps most importantly, mutually beneficial relationships and a collaborative approach must be fostered to champion NEETS and dispel the myth that they require significantly more investment than any other trainee.

Making it work

At Re:allies, we ’ve achieved this by satisfying together the repairs and maintenance needs of social housing providers, with the expertise of contractors who are looking for eager, hardworking employees, and people within the community who are removed from the labour market.

By encouraging closer working between these groups - and supporting at every stage of the journey with recruitment support, mentoring, training, funding and basics like tool kits - the members of our consortium have helped more than 700 people into sustainable careers within the construction industry.

Taking this a step further, we have also been working closely with the UKCIS (UK Commission for Innovation and Skills) on its ‘Employer Ownership of Skills’ (EOS) initiative, through Procure Plus – one of our founding consortiums.

By working with UKCIS, and 25 North West contractors, we hope to tap into EOS funding to make sure qualifications can be designed that meet industry needs, allowing contractors and apprentices to take a step away from ‘off-the-shelf’ courses that might not be quite suitable.

Future-proofing careers

No matter what industry an apprentice chooses, it is vital that they are confident that the training they will receive will set them up for a sustainable career that could see them through to retirement if they wish.

Furthermore, businesses must recognise the importance of providing employees with training which not only meets immediate business needs, but also future projected requirements. 

Businesses can future-proof themselves by ensuring the existing workforce is up-skilled, and receives on-going, high-quality training. Ultimately, this will serve to increase feelings of security, enthusiasm and potential for personal growth.

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