Training in offsite construction techniques is likely to grow in importance during 2011, according to National Construction College director Andy Walder.
However, he says that firms looking to train their staff in prefabricated solutions should pay close attention to what is on offer on the courses they sign up for. “There is an issue where we could be developing a training course to support a particular initiative, but that initiative is probably closely linked to a manufacturer. We have to step away and work on developing courses for generic products, and then we may develop optional bolt-on modules for specific systems as requested by contractors,” he says. Doing so helps prevent manufacturers from artificially creating captive markets, ensuring that contractors will still be able to find systems that work best for them.
Mr Walder says that training firms need to respond to industry trends and that government pressure is also encouraging contractors to train their staff to higher levels. “The government is pushing apprenticeships to reach NVQ Level 3, as opposed to Level 2 as they are now. It says that UK plc is underskilled compared to other countries, particularly as people in the UK generally leave education at a younger age than they do in Europe,” he says.
Part of this process has been the introduction of the NVQ diploma in August, which has helped boost the NVQ system’s equivalency with other qualifications, with Level 6 now academically equivalent to an honours degree and Level 7 worth the same as a masters.
Mr Walder says there is a growing tendency towards specialised apprenticeships, rather than the traditional general construction apprentice training programme. “Next year we are likely to set up a specialist apprenticeship in concrete, and also in highways and maintenance. This is in response to the demand we are seeing from industry employers,” he says. A glimmer of hope can also be found in requests for training by contractors. Mr Walder says that there is growing demand for scaffolding qualifications and training, which he suggests could indicate that more projects are coming back online.