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Lovell takes on the skills shortage

NEWS

Last month, Bruce Boughton was appointed national people development manager for affordable housing specialist Lovell.He talks to Joanna Booth What does the title people development manager mean? Is it just another way of saying training manager?

I think the wording reflects the way we want to develop people - it's not just about sending them on training courses.

There are many other options, like mentoring, self-study, distance learning and estudy. At the moment, we're somewhat reliant on external courses, and that's something I'd like to change.

How are you dealing with the skills shortage the industry is experiencing?

We have more than 100 apprentices at the moment.The vast majority of them study at Stephenson College in Leicestershire.Rather than going on day release to their local colleges spread across the country we send them there for a week at a time. It allows them to get to know their peers.Being the only apprentice on a site can be challenging, and this central system means they can support each other. It's also had the accidental benefit of helping communication across the company.We work in discrete regions, but when we get the apprentices together they don't divide themselves that way.We've got a new intake of 50 apprentices starting this summer.

Is it also difficult to recruit at management level?

Perhaps even more so.We sponsor students for our graduate programme, but also have a trainee management academy for qualifications leading up to HNC level, providing us with entry-level junior management. Our business wants to expand rapidly, and as part of Morgan Sindall we have the resources to do that.What has the potential to hold us back is lack of people.We can only bid for a job if we can man it.

You used to work for Asda as training manager.How different is your role at Lovell?

The retail business also focused on the need for technical skills, but the skills shortage was nowhere near as dramatic.

It also suffered as a sector from the same problems with its image. People saw working in a supermarket as just shelf-stacking, in the same way as they only think of construction in terms of site-based jobs.

There are fantastic and very meritocratic management opportunities in both.The level of subcontracting has been something new to get my head around, as has the transitory nature of site work. It makes it easier to lose good people.

How can you improve the construction industry's image?

Each of our regional offices adopts local schools.We create projects for kids of 14 to 18 to increase awareness of the industry.We often kick off with asking them to write job descriptions for key roles on a project.They get to talk to architects and quantity surveyors and find out what they do, as well as chippies and sparks.