It is a key theme running through the entire skills debate in construction: the industry needs to either modernise or die.
It was the title of Mark Farmer’s 2016 review into the UK’s construction labour model, and more recently held up as part one of the solution to the ‘broken’ housing crisis, with politicians and the industry alike picking offsite and modular schemes as a sort of construction panacea.
However, though plans such as Aecom’s to build 3,000 homes in their new modular factory, sound good, how will firms find staff to help deliver the new construction methods, be it offsite, modular or 3D-printed homes?
After all, as Construction News reported this month, the new trailblazing standards are stuck in development mode, with many still due to be signed off.
The government is about to dissolve itself until a new one is formed after June’s general election.
And the clock is ticking ever louder on Brexit – and the huge labour market it supplies to the construction industry.
If the industry can’t fully decide itself how to train someone to lay a brick, what hope does it have to conjure up the skills needed to deliver modular homes at scale?
The CITB’s plans to deliver training in offsite construction, announced yesterday, has gone someway to finding an answer to this conundrum.
Working with Mr Farmer, the body will work with the industry to develop new training, linked to the CITB levy that can address the skills balance in these key areas.
The plan has one of the key ingredients lacking in the current skills debate, namely: flexibility.
Although the new trailblazing standards are to be welcomed, none of the new standards at present have any provision for offsite manufacture or anything else that may be needed to improve productivity in construction.
Also, the industry can’t wait three years (or more) for a trailblazing standard to be delivered.
The new training regime will allow the development of standalone knowledge courses, link new standards and qualifications to the CITB training grants, support the development of bespoke teaching materials for schools as well as colleges and promote offsite training.
All are measures to be welcomed, and hopefully acted upon in the weeks and months ahead.
The apprenticeship levy, which came into force earlier this month, has put renewed focus on the CITB’s own levy, which has been in place for a number of years.
With grumbles within the industry that it is being ‘double taxed’ by the imposition of two levies, this new initiative may allow the CITB to ensure it remains relevant in the years ahead.
Talking of skills
Check out today’s longer read on a lost generation: why construction can’t afford to lose over-50s