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Creating the talent pipeline for demolition

With the shackles of austerity being gently released and an impending election just around the corner, it is little surprise to see a range of major infrastructure projects receiving the go-ahead in our towns and cities.

Multi-million-pound transformational schemes have been unveiled and state-of-the-art CGIs have painted emotional pictures of places we would all love to work, rest and play in.

However, to create this new vision we have to carefully demolish existing buildings or unwanted structures and, if we’re not careful, this is where problems may start.

Lack of support

The sector I’ve worked in for more than 35 years is desperately crying out for fresh blood, especially in the more technically demanding roles.

By my rough estimations, I reckon we’re currently 500 employees short of the staffing levels required to support existing and future regeneration projects.

So where does the problem lie?

There is definitely work to be done on promoting demolition as a rewarding career and measures are already being taken to go into schools, colleges and universities to paint the picture of what our sector is really like.

The bigger issue for me is the lack of training support available for our industry.

Political skills

With the battlelines being drawn ahead of the general election, skills appear to be at the top of every politician’s agenda.

Labour leader Ed Miliband went one step further by announcing that all school-leavers will be guaranteed an apprenticeship by 2020.

In general, this is music to my ears and I think we’re all on the same page in wanting our young people to get more vocational experience and qualifications.

However, there is a big ‘but’.

“It appears demolition isn’t sexy enough to get politicians the column inches or sway the swing voters”

All parties seem to have missed my sector, where there is very little provision and very few courses for demolition engineering apprenticeships.

Yes, there are operative apprenticeships and both the National Demolition Training Group and CSkills are pushing those hard, but these are more for individuals wishing to enter the sector as a labourer or plant operator.

These are both good career moves, but what about those who aspire to become demolition engineers and want to study demolition engineering?

Currently, no UK college or university offers this type of course and the government seems unwilling to provide firms with grants or any type of funding.

It appears our industry isn’t sexy enough to get them the column inches or sway the swing voters.

Taking action

At C&D Consultancy, we have taken matters into our own hands by recruiting our own apprentices.

Education will not be from a college or university course but through our own courses, mentoring from our professionals and on-the-job training.

We are not stopping there.

I’m in discussions with a number of local colleges about writing accredited courses and would also like to see universities develop a degree.

We need a progression route for our most talented people and higher education opportunities that will stop them from slipping into more widely accepted careers in civil engineering.

Demolition needs the same education and training provision as automotive, aerospace, retail or professional services, especially if you don’t want troublesome buildings or structures preventing future infrastructure projects.

Educate and we will thrive.

John Woodward is managing director of C&D Consultancy

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