BSRIA call for more vocational training
|The UK is on the verge of what is probably the most momentous change to its business climate since it entered the Common Market 40 years ago, and yet the construction sector is struggling to meet historical challenges, let alone those it will face post-Brexit.|
We are in an age where we are facing the retirement of the baby boomers. 22 per cent of workers in the sector are aged between 50 and 60, compared with only nine per cent that are 24 or younger. The challenge is how to transfer all that knowledge to new entrants before it is lost. Surveys repeatedly show the construction industry is not attracting enough talent to meet growing demand. A recent BSRIA survey (November 2018) found that 78 per cent of member companies were having trouble finding suitably-qualified workers.
The Government’s approach to this has resulted in a situation in which fewer students are considering university courses for fear of the debt they will incur. Its flagship apprenticeship scheme, for many seen as the utopian answer to encourage vocational training, is stalling, with only 114,400 overall starts between August and October 2017 compared with 155,700 in the same period in 2016.
 Stagnant productivity
A recent World Economic Forum study found the construction industry’s productivity improvements have been 'meagre' compared to those in the rest of the world’s industries during the last 50 years. The study reported that the construction industry has actually lost productivity over the last 40 years.
The causes for this have been identified as:
- Inadequate project planning, with workers spending up to 63 per cent of their time waiting around.
- Poor collaboration and communication on projects.
- Fragmentation of the sector causing too many handoffs and too much rework.
- Shortage of skilled workers resulting in the slow adoption of new techniques and technologies such as BIM.
Graduates who enter the workforce are only partially ready for work. BSRIA’s experience has been that many of its member organisations have needed to put their graduate recruits on a foundation year of additional training before they are productive.
The industry appears like a rabbit in the headlights when faced with the challenge of delivering a project on time and within budget – only 25 per cent of projects are completed within 10 per cent of the original deadlines. Cost and schedule overruns seem to be the norm.
BSRIA has led the industry in attempts to improve this with its publication and training course on BG6 Design Framework for Building Services, and its Soft Landings process which is being adopted by government and other organisations.
The government has set the industry a target to lower greenhouse emissions by 50 per cent by 2025. While admiring this ambition, some would say it may be unrealistic. According to the UK Green Building Council, the construction and maintenance of buildings and other structures is responsible for around half of CO2 emissions in the UK.
Cement is a particular culprit and accounts for half of the industry’s emissions. BSRIA is supporting initiatives around the circular economy designed to eradicate as much waste as possible, and if sustainability in construction is to be addressed, part of the solution is to cascade innovation to all levels of the industry.
We will not be able to address these issues without focusing on the provision of vocational training in our industry. Short courses, in particular, offer the opportunity for exposure to the latest ideas, technologies, processes and techniques leading to an increase in capacity to adopt new methods and technologies.
The development of training modules aimed at recent entrants to the sector will make them more productive more quickly, improve worker motivation and reduce staff turnover and absenteeism. Training in the latest project management and construction methods will ultimately improve work quality, leading to better customer satisfaction and wellbeing of building occupants.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- BSRIA calls on industry to get involved with National Apprenticeship Week 2019.
- BSRIA articles
- Can apprenticeships solve the construction skills crisis?
- Careers in the electrotechnical industry.
- ECA 2018 Apprentice of the Year.
- National vocational qualification.
- Skills shortage.