Tackling construction skills challenges

Training Posted 29/08/18
The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) is taking action to help tackle the growing construction skills shortage in the region following a report by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

The CITB has produced two reviews of the sector in the SELEP region, one covering Essex and one looking at the situation in Kent, Medway and East Sussex.

It found there are significant risks which the industry faces in coming years, notably an ageing workforce, a need to improve the image of a career in the industry, the potential impacts on the migrant workforce resulting from Brexit which will be felt hardest in London and the South East, and the continuing draw for workers to service major projects in London.

Additionally, there is a shortage of experienced and skilled staff willing to move into teaching the workers of tomorrow.

“The construction sector is the largest employer in the SELEP region, with 27,000 businesses employing more than 100,000 people directly and thousands more in related sectors,” said Christian Brodie, Chair of SELEP.

“It is a sector that is seeing high employment growth and which is fundamental to the continued economic success of the area.

“We need a workforce in the construction sector that can meet the demands and expected levels of growth, with new large infrastructure like the Lower Thames Crossing and plans for 96,500 homes in Garden Communities across the SELEP area.

“We need a highly skilled workforce who can deliver quality schemes, providing opportunities for locally based businesses and employees. As such, it is vital that SELEP plays a leading role in addressing the issues highlighted by the CITB.”

The CITB found that in the short term, the occupations at most risk of demand outstripping current employment estimates are civil engineering, plasterers and dry liners, scaffolders and non-construction operatives.

It is also likely that demand will outstrip supply for glaziers, floorers and painters and decorators.

Further ahead, occupations most at risk of labour supply shortages include civil engineering operatives, plant operatives and construction project managers.

The report found there are occupations, such as roofers, specialist building operatives, other construction professional and technical staff, and floorers, where the levels of competence-based training appear to be lower than could be expected.

Graham Razey, chair of SELEP’s skills advisory group, said: “The skills shortage creates a vicious circle when it comes to our education providers recruiting lecturers. Because of the shortages in the sector, those with the level of skills and experience required to teach are in demand and our colleges and other training establishments find it hard to compete on salaries and recruit.

“The LEP has plans in place to tackle this and the other challenges facing the construction sector. As well as working with the CITB, we have partnered with local businesses and training boards to develop our own Skills Strategy to support the Government’s Industrial Strategy and new National Careers Strategy.”

How SELEP is helping

Christian Brodie said: “We have already invested significant funds in a number of projects across the area, including an extension at East Kent & Canterbury College at Folkestone, enabling more construction apprenticeships; Procat in Basildon providing advanced training methods across construction skills; and new digital training labs at Harlow College.

“A SELEP hosted workshop with industry leaders from the region and training providers is being arranged for later this year to develop an action plan specific to the construction sector in the area, while the LEP is also working to highlight to industry the importance of finding tutors to bring through the next generation of workers.

“Additionally, the CITB has launched the Construction Skills Fund to support the development of at least 20 on-site training hubs around the UK and we urge local organisations to apply for grants.”

He added: “This latest study with the CITB will add even greater focus to our efforts to work with the construction industry and education providers across the area to ensure we have the skills needed to continue to build a better future.”

More details on the CITB’s Construction Skills Fund are available at www.citb.co.uk

For more details on SELEP and its work, visit southeastlep.com

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