The challenges caused by the lack of new talent entering construction has long been a concern of many in the industry.
During a recession, budgets for marketing and training are often the first to be cut.
The damage caused to the industry’s skills base during the last downturn has meant that simply upping training budgets is not going to close the gap.
We are facing a battle on two fronts: the need to recruit and train new employees while also developing existing colleagues to meet new skills needs.
The current situation will only be solved by contractors finding ways to make their cash go further and developing long-term skills development plans that go beyond simply providing the training required by new legislation.
This is something that’s particularly important in the refurbishment and fit-out sector.
“Clients are increasingly looking for contractors that can provide a full turnkey solution. For us to match this demand, we’ve had to widen the pool of people in our business”
A growing number of projects now include integrating digital technology alongside more traditional fit-out activities – from installing tablet devices in shops to increased self-service in high street banks and interactive technology in classrooms.
Clients are increasingly looking for contractors that can provide a full turnkey solution.
For us to match this demand, we’ve had to rapidly widen the pool of people in our business with this kind of expertise.
This was one of the drivers behind our decision to bring training in-house in an effort to align it with our wider business needs more effectively.
By appointing our own in-house industry-accredited trainers, we can run workshops with staff to quickly upskill our workforce.
This has also given us the ability to train our supply chain to ensure the same standards we set as a business are being filtered through to everyone before work starts on site.
This helps avoid a situation where different contractors working on the same site have been trained to a varying standard.
A crucial part of this has been the development of a skills matrix across the business – showing where there is a strong ability in delivering particular work specifications and where there’s room for improvement.
“By training ourselves, we’ve also created a channel to share knowledge between different divisions to train almost on demand”
This matrix has allowed us to be more proactive in planning our required training, to factor in when staff certificates need to be renewed to meet industry requirements, and arrange our own wider staff development to link closely with our order book.
By training ourselves, we’ve also created a channel to share knowledge between different divisions to train almost on demand, ensuring we can be more agile when we spot new market opportunities and more responsive to new techniques.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has highlighted that over the next two years more companies will more closely integrate learning and development with their wider business strategy.
The picture in the construction industry should be no different; there’s inherent risk in our working environments and a strong link between profit and staff competency.
Others will need to find out what works best for their business, but the correlation between training and business success has never been more evident.
A long-term appreciation of staff skills, coupled with flexible training that can respond to market change, will make the industry better equipped to meet the challenges of the future.
Karen Morley is director of HR at Styles & Wood