For a sustained workforce we need to train more home-grown talent and create long-term career opportunities. There is a demand for the now- and future skills, both of which are required to “Build Back Better”. We must use this demand to underpin the evolution of new skills training and to attract a new generation of a more productive but less labour-intensive and innovative workforce.
There needs to be a blended approach to creating a future-proof workforce. Existing workers require upskilling to adopt new emerging techniques and technologies, whilst retaining their talent to pass on to the next generation.
This is never truer than in the construction sector, where skilled labour is in decline – with one new entrant for every five that are leaving the industry. This is being further exacerbated by the loss of migrant workers as a result of Brexit. Consequently, there is an ever-increasing reliance on the shrinking pool of an experienced and competent labour force. The ability for these workers to pass on their valuable skills to the next generation is diminished by the ever-increasing demands of their day-to-day work resulting in the quality of the new entrants entering the sector being diluted.
New entrant- and apprenticeship training should be integrated through a productivity-led agenda – where clients, led by government, utilise best-practice and value-based procurement. This investment must underpin the evolution of new skills and be productive in order to attract a new generation of workers. The construction sector must create a model where more can be done with less resource in the future.
To achieve this new type of demand, better outcomes must be created. The schools, colleges and universities will need to match this new way of working with a new set of skills. However, this causality dilemma will need “pump priming” through funding using project design and specification.
These new and emerging skills – shaped by technology, modern work methods, and design for manufacture construction – must create a new dynamic, as far as training and skills are concerned. Increasing the pre-manufactured value of projects, will mean that functions – normally carried out at site in all conditions – will be undertaken in controlled offsite facilities. These facilities will boost predictable productivity, which in turn will improve efficiency and produce a competent, capable, enthused and motivated workforce – ultimately achieving more with less.
By creating the demand for skills that are new or emerging, employers will not initially have visibility or confidence in future work-streams, until these become established and there are economies of scale. Utilising a model where a central body employs large numbers of apprentices and trainees that are hosted for specific periods by contractors, can create sustainable apprenticeships.
Moreover, there are additional benefits in the wellbeing and mental health of apprentices and new entrants, including: improved consistency; job security; less travel; and more varied knowledge across several different experiences, with consistent support from trained mentors.
Could utilising the shared apprenticeship model, in order to assist businesses to develop new emerging skills and technologies (while consolidating traditional skills), be a sound proposition among the many solutions to this dilemma?