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New president: 'Skills is our biggest challenge'

27 May 2013

Jacobs: we need more skills

New CIOB president Peter Jacobs FCIOB has vowed to put the Institute's qualifications at the centre of any career in the built environment when he takes the reins this month.

The Morgan Sindall regional managing director says he wants to strengthen links between employers, members and educationalists in the UK to drive this forward and help create a more professional industry that can deliver “more for less”.

In a video interview for the CIOB website, Jacobs said: ”I will be making sure we are moving forward in the right way and making sure our qualifications give our members the best possible advantage in their careers. At the moment the construction industry is changing faster than at any stage during my career. We have to change to deliver more for less and that’s a great challenge for us.

“The biggest challenge facing the construction industry is skills – that’s on every level. To deliver on every level from the top to artisans and tradespeople we have to be more skilful.”

Peter Jacobs: quick Q&A

Proudest moment? The birth of my twin girls.

Why construction? I've always been interested in building things, but quickly realised I was better with people than numbers so moved from engineering and design into process of construction.

Alternative career? If I hadn't gone into the building industry I'd have done something creative, like writing.

What would you like to have built? Technically the Shard; from my heart the Taj Mahal – it was built for love and what better reason to build a building.

Who inspired you? Brunel and Sir Frank Lampl – he understood that people mattered.

Jacobs’ comments echo the findings of a new CIOB survey published in May which concluded that insufficient skills in BIM and green construction could hold back the industry’s growth.

The Institute’s 2013 skills audit revealed that, of 1,346 respondents, most of whom are CIOB members, 82% believe there is a skill shortage in the construction industry, a 5% increase on the previous survey, published in 2011.

With the government due to mandate Level 2 BIM on all publicly-funded projects by 2016, a significant 59% of respondents said the workforce does not have the skills needed to work with BIM, while 78% identified BIM training as a core issue.

Respondents blamed the industry’s overall skills shortage on the scarcity of high-quality training and investment from both government and industry, with trade and technical skills considered the highest in demand.

Jacobs urged anyone entering construction to choose an employer that offers a structured training programme.

Jacobs graduated in civil engineering from City University in 1979 and worked for the government's Property Services Agency and in the private sector before joining Bovis in 1987. During 24 years at Bovis he worked on high-profile projects in London and Glasgow, culminating in the London 2012 Athletes’ Village. He then joined Morgan Sindall London as regional managing director. He takes over the presidency from fellow Bovis alumnus Alan Crane in June and will make his first appearance as president at the CIOB Annual Conference at Oulton Hall, Leeds.

In his video interview, Jacobs said construction managers must be prepared to work collaboratively and that the “professional institutions need to work together rather than compete”.

He added that communication was also a challenge for construction managers using modern social networking. “I’ll be tweeting and blogging as the new president,” he said.

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