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.