Article by Laura Barrow
The local construction industry has seen significant growth in recent years
Thanks to the Lancashire City Deal, our county is vastly becoming one of the fastest growing and commercially dynamic locations in the UK.
But can the red rose workforce keep-up with inflated demand?
According to the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Construction Skills Gap Analysis, to meet the pipeline of projects forecast in the North West requires more than 850 people to join the construction industry each year in the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area.
Higher hopes and higher skills for Lancastrians.
The LEP suggests that a workforce with higher level skills will significantly reduce the current skills shortages and boost the local economy.
With Lancashire hosting a shortage of highly skilled 21-34 year olds, it remains imperative that employers recognise that upskilling their existing staff is of equal importance as hiring a new recruit.
In agreement, CITB highlight that gaining higher level qualifications are an important stepping stone for industry workers to acquire advanced knowledge and skills that are sought after by employers.
CITB also recognised the significance of developing the construction curriculum to match training and development needs of employers to plug the skills shortages.
To address the matter, I caught up with Mark Taylor, Head of School for Construction & the Built Environment at Preston’s College, who discusses how Further Education providers can equip the workforce with higher skills.
Mark said: “At Preston’s College, our provision and methods of delivery are specifically designed with employers in mind.
“Programmes will provide learners with first-hand knowledge, experience and site skills whilst minimising impact on the day-to-day function of a business.
“We work hard to maximise employment opportunities by ensuring that our curriculum and programmes deliver demand-led skills and apprenticeship frameworks to address skills shortfalls in the industry.”
Lay the foundations for the future
The LEP go on to discuss the future of the Lancashire labour market, highlighting that employers are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit higher skilled personnel.
This key issue can be helped by employers upskilling their workforce, a pivotal move to address industry skills shortages whilst holding a whole host of benefits to business and employee morale.
Mark continued: “Enabling employees to gain higher skills and qualifications is a great step towards shaping the future of the construction industry with an upskilled, highly trained and effective workforce.
“At Preston’s College we are able to offer flexible delivery programmes, including out of hours training and workplace training.
“Our HNC Construction qualification is designed to meet industry needs, featuring high levels of training, resources and real work environments to equip employees with skills to advance their career.
“We work closely with employers including Eric Wright, United Utilities and Taylor Wimpey, where we have been able to successfully upskill their workforce in accordance with their business requirements.
“As a region, we are now in the 4th year of the City Deal plan and with residential and commercial construction on the rise, there is no better time to be a part of the construction industry.”
Training providers like Preston’s College are not only able to provide unique provision and programmes for employers looking to upskill staff, but also offer advice and guidance on higher education and apprenticeship funding.
The College can also provide a training needs analysis for both levy and non-levy employers to provide them with the knowledge and confidence to directly address their skills shortages.
We spoke with Joe Whitham who works as an Assistant Quantity Surveyor at Colin Briscoe Construction who took the next step to gain higher level skills.
Joe told us about his experience of studying HNC Construction at Preston’s College on a part-time basis alongside industry employment.
Joe said: “It’s been a great experience studying the HNC Construction course at Preston’s College. It has provided me with a fantastic insight into the construction industry at a higher level.
“I have studied a range of subjects throughout the course which helped me progress in the work place.
“I feel that I have improved my skills, knowledge and experience which has made me much more competent in my role.”
Joe’s employer, Colin Briscoe Construction, added: “Joe has worked incredibly hard in his role as Assistant Quantity Surveyor and has been able to advance his skills at work because of his studies.
“We have seen Joe mature into a valued and well-respected member of our team and is a real asset to the company.
“The high level of tuition and support received throughout his studies evidently contributed greatly towards his personal and professional development.
“We would like to thank Preston’s College for providing our business and our member of staff with the opportunity to advance Joe’s skills which he has implemented into the workplace.”
What can we learn?
As the industry grows, the workforce and their skills need to grow with it. The willingness of employers and the workforce plays a vital part in taking the next step to build a highly skilled workforce; an essential factor to secure future of the construction industry.
Preston’s College offers construction courses ranging from Level 1 to Level 6, with full access to our real working environments which aim to equip learners with industry skills and experience. To find out more, please visit https://www.preston.ac.uk/courses/higher-education/construction/.