8th December Journal Column

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

The industry’s skills shortage has always been something that has concerned me, so I’m always happy to hear of initiatives or training aimed at upskilling employees or training new recruits with the skills the industry needs.

Plans to invest £76m into retraining adults who want to work in the digital and construction sectors were announced ahead of the budget last month. I have voiced my opinion numerous times on the need for more opportunities for workers and for better training standards, so it’s really encouraging to see schemes and initiatives dedicated to just that.

As a first step, £36m will be invested in digital skills courses using Artificial Intelligence, with a further £40m being invested in construction training programmes for groundworkers, bricklayers, roofers and plasterers. In order to build the homes that we desperately need, it’s important there are enough workers with the right skills to meet this challenge. With the government planning to build 300,000 homes every year by the mid-2020s, we’ve certainly got our work cut out, and skilled workers are crucial to ensure we hit the targets that have been set.

Digital skills are definitely the future and the government announcements show there are solid plans to future-proof the industry and its workforce. The funding is provided in advance of launching a National Retraining Scheme that will help people get new skills. It will be overseen by the government, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) who will all decide on other areas where new skills and training courses are needed. It’s encouraging to see the formal partnership between the government, CBI and the TUC to oversee the roll-out of the scheme. This is what we’ve wanted for such a long time, the industry and the government to work together and deliver the training, the housing and the skilled workforce we’ve desperately been crying out for. But it is the training decisions that take place every day across the country that will make a difference – so a genuine partnership is needed so that the whole workforce benefits.

The White Paper also showed commitment to T-levels and ensuring children are well informed on the alternative routes to the traditional academic route that are available after school, showing technical routes as an equally valued option. At the end of the day, we need a workforce that has the skills we need. Whether that is made up of retrained workers or those just coming into the industry, they just need to be prepared for the challenges ahead and be equipped to deal with the digital world we’re soon going to find ourselves in.

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.

1st December Journal Column

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

Earlier this week, the government announced the long awaited Industrial Strategy white paper. Thankfully, the construction sector was one of the industries chosen to receive a government boost, in the deal planned to boost productivity.

As of recently, I’d say the industry has been in a good position, but there’s always room for improvement and it helps to have the government in your corner. It was announced that the industry will receive £170m worth of government investment, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to support innovation and improve productivity across the whole sector. The deal has been put in place to ensure more investment in innovation and skills, leading to new, well-paid jobs and maximising its export potential. It will also reduce the environmental impact, improve the efficiency and reduce whole life cost of new projects and buildings to help build the houses, schools, hospitals and transport projects we desperately need.

The deal, the first of a series that the government intends to negotiate with the industry, contains commitments to work collaboratively in three key areas;

Procuring for Value – The government will work with industry professionals across both public and private sectors to ensure projects are built based on their whole life value, rather than capital cost. This will mean considering all costs associated with the life of a building, from inception to construction, occupation and operation and disposal, which is a much better way of assessing value for money. They will also develop a procurement standard and develop cost and performance benchmarks for assets and contractors.

Industry-led Innovation – There will be commitment to invest in a programme which brings together the construction, digital technology, manufacturing, materials and energy sectors to develop and commercialise digital and offsite manufacturing technologies. This is one that I’m eager to see play out, I’ve been pushing for more attention on digital and technology, it’s definitely the way the world is moving, so it’s important the industry moves with it.

Skills for the Future – Increased investment in skills development and adopting a more strategic approach to recruitment and equipping workers with the skills they will need, will be achieved through a commitment to implement reforms to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The deal will ensure the CITB is more strategic and industry led, enabling the industry to make best use of funding from the Apprenticeship Levy made live in April. 

It’s promising to know that the government have recognised the importance of productivity in the industry. It proves that the government do listen. For so long we’ve been calling for more commitment to infrastructure, skills and more digital solutions, and that’s exactly what we got.

It’s now up to us to ensure the plans laid down are achieved. With the hard-working workforce that I know we have and the government behind us, I don’t see any reason why we can’t achieve them.

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.