This is one of the key concerns I hear when I talk to employers. They want young people who have completed college courses to be ready for work on day one.
It is a viewpoint that I have a lot of sympathy with. Construction firms are hard-pushed at the moment and it is natural to want that new colleague on site ready to do a job and do it well.
On the other side of the debate, however, are the training providers. How can we make a student work-ready if they haven’t had months of onsite experience? It is a real conundrum.
I am pleased to say that at the National Construction College (NCC), we are working to secure a long-term healthy supply of highly trained workers. Our future has been secured as part of the CITB’s strategic vision, and we are looking to expand our offer.
What are we doing?
When we are putting on courses, whether that’s in Bircham Newton, Glasgow, Birmingham or London, we want them to be as relevant as possible.
We put emphasis on softer skills that young people need to be successful in their careers – time management being one of them. In addition, we try to simulate the working environment, whether that’s operating plant or any of the other specialised courses we put on.
Part of the solution is having a close working relationship with employers who come to us for training.
“We need to make sure that experienced workers are supported to top up their skills”
By really listening to employers, we look to make our courses tailored to what they need. But even so, those young people will still need the necessary time on site with their firms to enhance their skills.
We need to find a middle ground between the expectations of employers and what we as training providers can deliver. It must be a partnership so that we can get as close as possible to providing what is most needed.
For me, the notion of work-readiness goes way beyond those young people starting out in their careers. It really should be relevant to people, whatever their age.
It is no secret that we have an ageing workforce, so we need to make sure experienced workers are supported to top up their skills, so they continue to be work-ready and productive. It is an area we are increasingly looking at in terms of course development.
This needs to be a big focus for all of us because, whatever deal we get from Brexit, it is likely to mean reduced access to migrant workers from Europe. We must focus on homegrown talent – both young people and the more experienced.
I believe we have to be in continual conversation with UK construction about what training provision should look like. That is how we can best meet the needs of industry.
Work-readiness is a problem that may not be solved overnight, but I very much see providers like NCC being part of the solution, both now and in the future.
Graham McPhail is head of the National Construction College (NCC)