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New ideas to bridge skills gap proposed at CIOB conference

25 November 2014

Speakers at the CIOB’s Inspiring the Future of Construction conference yesterday put forward a range of new strategies and ideas that could help the industry attract the talent it needs to build a legacy for the future – in terms of buildings, social cohesion and innovation.

Contributions to the industry’s most pressing debate came from the Government’s chief construction adviser Peter Hansford, Lord Richard Best, Michelle May, head of regeneration at the London Legacy Development Corporation.

Also putting forward ideas were Tony Ellender, emerging talent development manager at Balfour Beatty, Kat Hanna, public affairs manager at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Lois Wilson, graduate recruitment manager at Turner & Townsend.

Hansford, stressing there was “no single magic bullet” to improve skills and recruitment, descirbed a range of initiatives from the Construction Industry Council. 

He described how house builders are working on a programme to lure back skilled tradespeople who left during the recession, an idea that could be rolled out more widely if it proves successful. He also argued that engagement with schools should start when pupils are none or 10, and that every industry company - and every regional office of national businesses - should "adopt" a local school.

But a key initiative, currently being fleshed out the CLC's Delivery Group, is to create “a common gateway with a distinct brand” that would advise young people of all the various entry paths to a career in construction. 

Hansford also said that the CLC is keen to develop “an industry commitment to young people on site that the whole industry can sign up to”, although gave no further details.

Michelle May described working with contractors on the conversion of the Olympic Park to the Queen Elizabeth II Park, where 60 apprentices were employed compared to an original target of 30. 

"Lots of candidates just don't think it's for them, but they just don't have the right networks. So we try to get the message out in the local press and schools, and then to celebrate the successes of the apprentices and their line managers with apprenticeship awards," she said. Once at work, she said it was "important to link young people in to a network and provide mentors who can support them when they have a wobble." 

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At the QEII site, client and contractors drew up a detailed Employment Skills Action Plan outlining which skills would be needed at various points in the programme, and the LDDC also promoted the London Living Wage to contractors - some but not all of the apprentices benefitted from it.

Kat Hanna, co-author of the recent KPMG/LCCI report on impending industry skills shortages in London and the southeast, said that its calculations on the shortfall of training capacity were based on the assumption - drawn from other industries - that a healthy sector should be training 5% of its total workforce at any one time, including new recruits and those mid-career.

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