More internships key to new industry skills strategy

The latest industry-wide skills plan tackles the labor shortage by expanding internships and focusing on skills rather than qualifications.

The plan was released by the People and Skills group of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) to set annual targets for industry and government to tackle the skills shortage in the built environment, which is plagued to a record level of vacancies, totaling 50,000 in the first quarter of 2022.

It is the second such plan and builds on a mandate issued last March. New initiatives include expanding trades-based internships, which help young people gain work experience in the construction trades. The existing masonry course will be taken further, alongside the introduction of the same opportunities in carpentry and carpentry, painting and decorating and dry laying.

The CLC is also stepping up its collaboration with the Competence Steering Group (CSG) to set up six “pilot” sectoral skills benchmarks for priority professions. These include plumbing and heating, dry coatings, fire detection and alarms, firestops, rainscreen cladding and roofing. The frameworks also aim to achieve higher levels of security in the industry.

Currently, CLC and CSG are working on developing a Competency Framework for Installers, which sets out the specific skills needed for jobs in the sector, as widely agreed upon. Current challenges include the lack of uniformity throughout the supply chain, the progression into the work of experienced workers without qualifications, and the difficulty of tapping into small businesses, independent traders and the self-employed.

Group chairman and Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds said skills advances would be made if more parts of the industry got involved and worked together.

“We can make fantastic progress if we involve more parts of the industry in what we seek to achieve,” he said. “The new skills map update will help us achieve our goals by defining where we want to be by the end of this year and outlining how our industry can get involved.”

Other highlights of the skills plan include restoring apprentice departures to pre-COVID levels by next year, creating approximately 3,000 departures in a skills boot camp, securing of 1,700 active STEM Ambassadors building and delivering 28,000 work experience induction sessions.

For the last three months of 2021, the number of construction vacancies fell slightly, to 42,000, but was still high by historical standards.

Alice F. Ponder