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Industry sets course to redressskillsgap

Construction organisations meet to create work-related 'foundation' degrees

CONSTRUCTION professionals and education chiefs are teaming up in a drive to attract 7,000 new managers into the industry each year.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and the Construction Confederation will hold a workshop in London on September 18 to thrash out the content of prototype foundation courses aimed at solving the white-collar skills shortage in the industry.

The initiative is the industry's response to the government's recent foundation degree consultation paper urging the development of courses with higher practical content.

Sheila Hoile, the CIC's director of education and professional development, said the industry was keen to develop 'work-related courses for doers and a new raft of degrees targeted at people who would not normally take them'.

She admitted that the new courses could not plug the skills gap overnight, but said the workshop would concentrate on 'developing proposals for one or more prototype foundation degrees that are appropriate and attractive for students, employers and providers'.

Bids from individual universities and colleges to run the new courses must be returned by October 11 to the Higher Education Funding Council for England and prototypes could be operating in time for the 2001 student intake.

Louisa Sheppard, the CITB's policy analyst, said: 'The courses will then be evaluated and developed and may become more widespread during the following couple of years.'

But the scale of the problem facing the industry is illustrated by the latest figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.

They show that the number of applicants to civil engineering and building and construction courses dived by 40 per cent and 41 per cent respectively between 1994 and 1999.

In the same period, places on civil engineering and building and construction courses fell by 24 per cent and 7 per cent respectively while overall acceptances for all subjects rose by 24 per cent.

People interested in attending the workshop can contact the CIC on 020 7323 9312.