Last edited 27 Mar 2016

UKCES offsite construction skills evaluation

On 21 October 2015, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) published the findings of the first productivity challenge of the UK Futures Programme. See UKCES Futures Programme evaluation: offsite construction.

The findings relate to a series of case studies intended to assess the offsite construction sector. Five skills projects piloted different approaches to improving sectoral collaboration and training opportunities for new and existing workers:

  • Skanska created an employer-led offsite management school with over 200 unique member companies and almost 300 individual learners.
  • Laing O’Rourke developed a live site scenario for training solutions allowing changes to be implemented in real time, cutting delays, improving ways of working and reducing waste.
  • Steel Construction Institute (SCI) consulted with more than 75 companies to develop and test online learning and training resources.
  • Edinburgh Napier University created an offsite construction hub to define and showcase skill requirements and encourage collaboration between professions.
  • Buildoffsite expanded their online comparison tool to evaluate onsite and offsite solutions at the early development stage.

The final evaluation was presented in the form of three briefing papers:

  • An evaluation of the five projects.
  • A detailed case study of the project led by Edinburgh Napier University, the Offsite Hub (Scotland).
  • A brochure summarising the five projects that made up the challenge.

Areas addressed through the five projects included; management skills, operational skills and developing contextual understanding of the offsite construction sector. The findings based on the delivery of the projects included:

  • The need for leadership to capitalise on the potential opportunities of industrialisation of the sector.
  • The ability of employers to improve skills in sectors, regions and supply chains, by working with each other, their employees, universities and professional associations.
  • The need for collaboration to build the skills needed for growth.
  • The potential for competitors to become collaborators where there is a common challenge and a foundation of strong individual or group relationships.
  • Skill gaps were sometimes greater than first realised, but corrective action could be taken.
  • Educators and businesses must work more closely together to ensure educational institutions and professionals keep up with technological advancements.

It was suggested that the findings are applicable to wider sectors, as well as offsite construction.

Rob Francis, director of innovation and business improvement at Skanska, said, “This challenge allowed us to look at something in a completely different way, and to take it forward together. It is clear that change in the sector needs to be a long-term commitment.

Dr Bill McGinnis CBE, former chair of the McAvoy Group (offsite solutions) and former UKCES Commissioner, said: “Although the scale of the skills challenges is greater than can be addressed through 6 month projects, this challenge has catalysed the start of, in the words of one of our project leads, ‘a 10 year change programme’ to ensure it has the skilled people it needs to fulfil its potential.”

Carol Stanfield, assistant director at UKCES, said: “The Challenge has supported businesses in the off-site construction sector to tackle specific issues prompted by technological developments. However, much of the learning that we gathered from these projects, about collaboration and sharing best practice, is applicable to any sector facing similar technological change – something that is currently affecting almost the entire economy.

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