In-depth training benefits everyone
Rob Pell, head of construction at Yorkshire-based Priestley Construction, calls for a revolution in skills training and apprenticeships.
I have worked in the industry for 40 years, so it goes without saying I’ve seen countless challenges – from endless housing shortages to the 2008 recession and now Brexit.
People are the key to meeting these head on. But the onus is on companies to put in the effort to attract talent, impart the necessary skills, and retain the people you’ve invested in.
“There’s a focus on fast-tracking young people through training to get them on site as soon as possible. This misses the point entirely.”
The CIOB recently reported that 170,000 new recruits are needed by 2021. As a country, we rely heavily on the EU to plug the skills gap; but, with Brexit looming, if the sector doesn’t respond proactively, there’s a strong risk that the gap will widen significantly.
Our apprenticeship schemes need to be radically overhauled. There’s a focus on fast-tracking young people through training to get them on site as soon as possible. This misses the point entirely – we end up with a raft of young people who don’t have a broader awareness of how the industry operates day-to-day.
The government is beginning to address this, allocating £22m to more in-depth onsite construction training, but there needs to be a more concerted effort by all.
Passing on practical expertise is not enough – we need to show how sites operate, in terms of contracts and project management, for example. This opens up pathways to further career progression. In short, trainees need to be better empowered.
I recommend a two to three-year scheme, similar to degree education, with onsite training at a single company at its core. This will create continuity and attract higher calibre applicants – our future leaders.
Industry and government need to come together to develop major training programmes that offer young people the first rung of the ladder and show them the view from the top.