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Skills in 2019: Training, reform and innovation

2019 will be a significant year for the UK construction skills landscape.

Our expected exit from the European Union is a reminder that we will need to work even harder to invest in our domestic workforce to meet the skills challenges we face. 

It’s a difficult time, but the opportunity is there for construction employers to take the driving seat, collaborate with others and shape the skills agenda for its own workforce. 

We operate the Southwark Construction Skills Centre in partnership with Southwark Council and Lendlease to support local residents and young people into jobs in the industry.

The skills centre is onsite at Lendlease’s Elephant Park development in Elephant & Castle, meaning we are able to offer a setting for training next to a £2.3bn construction project.

The supply chain has a direct voice on training and can tailor the training to suit its needs. Training is only offered if it has been designed by an employer or if it’s an agreed apprenticeship linked to employment.

Industry partners such as A-Plant and JCB provide all tools and PPE. 

Since 2016 the centre has delivered training to over 4,800 residents with 60 per cent going into employment or jobs. It has promoted the sector to over 2,000 school children locally in south London and has up-skilled over 2,500 individuals in the construction sector to NVQ level 2 or above. 

Country-wide hubs

In November 2018 as a part of the government-led Industrial Strategy, CITB and the Department for Education launched the Construction Skills Fund (CSF).

The fund will help support a further 26 onsite training hubs across England with projects in Liverpool, Manchester, London, Bristol and the East Midlands.

Projects will use the collaborative model to work with local employers and training providers to retrain 17,000 workers.

“As our industry seeks to modernise, it’s important to capture young talent who are better equipped to drive innovation”

The apprenticeship levy and reformed CITB levy will enable construction businesses to access both funding and delivery for skills to support both new and existing workers.

The introduction of T-levels will support technical training for pre / post-school leavers. The funding and programmes are in place but they are at present underutilised.

Employers need to take the lead to strategically change their own skills agenda to lead to positive action in productivity, and the CSF initiative allows us to do exactly that.

The onsite training hubs should also be one way to provide the 45-day work placements that will be a key part of T-levels.

Those better equipped 

As our industry seeks to modernise, it’s important to capture young talent who are better equipped to drive innovation. The number of 16-18 year-olds in the industry is reducing but as a centre we are seeing a rise of capable 16-18-year-old residents who have excellent behaviours and are excited to work industry.

Yet they continue to face barriers about how to get into it, from employment status, misunderstanding on behaviours, and health and safety risks. 

If the construction industry really wants to fix the skills problem, it needs to come together to find a sustainable solution to employ these individuals direct into the workforce.

Jon Howlin is operator of the Southwark Construction Skills Centre

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