5th May Journal Column

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

According to a new report from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), offsite construction could revolutionise the industry – as a big advocate of this method of construction it’s encouraging to hear, especially during the housing crisis we’ve been facing over the last few years.

Offsite construction is a modern way of building that sees the unit being constructed offsite in a factory-controlled environment. The building is then delivered to the site where the ground works and foundations will have been prepared.

Following Mark Farmer’s report entitled ‘Modernise or Die’ report, and government initiatives aimed at encouraging the use of offsite, it seems the industry is finally realising the benefits offsite construction can bring. The CITB have commissioned a report ‘Faster, Smarter, More Efficient: Building Skills for Offsite Construction’, which provides a timely assessment of how the adoption of offsite is changing the skills and training landscape for the industry.

The report shows that 42% of industry employers with over 100 staff expect to use offsite methods in five years’ time, of which, they all expect the use of precast concrete panels to increase and 91% anticipate the use of precast concrete frame to rise. Almost 50% of construction industry clients also expect the use of offsite construction to increase over the next five years – so offsite construction is certainly on the up!

Offsite construction currently accounts for just 10% of industry output and the CITB has identified a growing training gap. We now need to concentrate on employer training and ensuring everyone has the knowledge and skill to deal with this new method of house building. If offsite construction is the road we’re going to go down, and it’s the right road for me, it’s our responsibility to ensure the industry is well equipped to go there.

The report outlined six key skills areas related to offsite construction; digital design; estimating/commercial; offsite manufacturing; logistics; site management and integration and onsite placement and assembly. For offsite construction to be successful, there needs to be a clear understanding of both onsite and offsite construction and the two must work together effectively, so training in these six areas must develop to meet the changing demand.

The CITB have promised to work with other stakeholders, such as in design and manufacturing to apply existing training in a construction context and step up promotion of the career opportunities offsite can offer, emphasising digital skills, to attract a wider pool of people into these key roles – which all sounds good to me, but as the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.