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Skills Summit urges unified approach to worker shortage

1 February 2018

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The inaugural Built Environment Skills Summit, which drew together the sector’s leading professional bodies and key policymakers, has called for a more unified approach to tackling construction’s pressing worker shortage.

The University College of Estate Management (UCEM) summit gathered together representatives from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB), Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Building Research Establishment (BRE) and the Cabinet Office to discuss the current skills challenges.

The UK must hire more than 400,000 construction workers every year for the next five years to meet current labour demand.

The report identified a lack of joined-up thinking and the absence of an overarching leadership body for skills as key issues to be addressed.

Suggested next steps include:

  • An integrated holistic picture of the built environment: to include what the sector is about, how it operates, and what its aims and objectives are.
  • A longer-term, industry-led, integrated and sustainable vision: to join together policy imperatives over five, 10 and 30 years, and stabilise demand and supply needs.
  • A unified careers and qualifications competence model: to promote a single shop window into built environment professions and provide pathways to lifelong career options.
  • An interface communications group: to allow for more integrated, joined-up conversation across all built environment disciplines and coherent responses to government policy in a timely manner.
  • An ongoing quality mark for skills certification: to provide recognition of ongoing individual competence and a “licence to practice”, which evidences the currency and relevance of skills.
  • A unified core curriculum across professional bodies, institutions and providers: to provide relevant, high-quality, assured content – aligning with professional requirements and competencies/occupational standards. 

Terry Watts, managing director at the CIOB, said: “Developing the skills of the workforce is one of the most pressing challenges facing the built environment today. As highlighted in the new UCEM report we need a multi-pronged approach to tackling the crisis, from attracting new entrants from diverse backgrounds to ensuring life-long learning to examining the ways that businesses collaborate and utilise labour.

“For too long the industry has avoided having to develop the skills it needs at all levels by buying in resources and using migrant workers, we now need to do establish a sustainable pipeline of skilled people from all parts of the community.

“Critically too, the various industry bodies including us at the CIOB, need to work much more closely over the long term to tackle the issues as effectively as we have done in defining the problems outlined in the report.”

UCEM principal Ashley Wheaton said: “There are substantial ongoing challenges with attracting new talent into the required professions at all levels, as well as retaining existing staff.

“In addition to these issues, the UK has set ambitious targets for infrastructure projects and residential construction growth. In themselves, these factors would present a considerable challenge. However, the situation is further compounded by the lack of cohesion, alignment and collaboration in the skills supply chain for the built environment.”

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