Adonis may have the body, but does he have a head for skills?

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Anyone with half an ear on the UK news over the last few days will know that George Osborne announced that he was investing further in, what he believes to be a critical area of concern for the UK economy – Infrastructure.

The Labour peer, Lord Adonis will be the chair of a new body called the National Infrastructure Commission. An initially confusing appointment as Lord Adonis is a staunch New Labour man but he is passionate about the fact that there must be alignment of planning, economic development and infrastructure as it’s critical not just to the country’s future prosperity but to social justice.

As John McTernan wrote in the Guardian recently: “Adonis knows that new roads, railways and power stations are not just projects in themselves; they are the engine of economic change. They take jobs to people, but they take people to jobs too.”

As Lord Adonis strives to ease the flow of new infrastructure projects through the system, he will be very aware of the huge skills shortages that blight the UK’s building industry. Research published by the Federation of Master Buildings in August 2015 suggests that two-thirds of small and medium construction firms have had to turn down work because they don’t have the staff to carry it out.

For five years Ethos has been creating sustainable solutions to complex challenges like the one facing the construction industry. Ethos is a network of social entrepreneurs and innovators who want to create better and more sustainable solutions to society’s biggest problems. They do this by putting people rather than corporations at the very heart of such challenges, and measure success by looking beyond the economic to consider impact on society and the environment.

So what better challenge for the company to step up to than matching clear and present desires for infrastructure growth to the availability of skills to deliver it?

Ethos’s most ambitious initiative yet, SkillsPlanner, is an innovative approach to solving skills shortages. SkillsPlanner is an internet platform that will allow stakeholders within the industry to share current and future skills supply and demand data, facilitating collaborative planning, training and brokerage to meet the industry’s requirements.

On the same day that George Osborne announced his re-inforced focus on the UK’s infrastructure, SkillsPlanner received final approval of £827k development funding from Innovate UK’s‘ Solving Urban Challenges with Data’ competition.

Ethos is collaborating with over 30 organisations on this initiative including core partners, the Association of Colleges, Camden Council, GoodPeople, Islington Council, Seme4, Tideway, Plymouth University, and Westminster Council.

Together with the ‘Linked Open Data’ technology leader and project partner Seme4, Ethos has launched a two-year £1.3m R&D project focussed on the London construction industry, which needs an estimated 180,000 new skilled entrants to deliver construction projects in the capital and the South East by 2019.

Key projects such as HS2, Tideway and Crossrail, planning authorities, main contractors, supply chains, training providers and industry bodies will share skills supply and demand data.

In simple terms this means that;

  • Skills and Training providers will be able to create demand-led courses and build capacity to know demand;
    • When asked for his comment, Martin Doel of the Association of Colleges said ‘Mastering data sources and being able to analyse this data in a timely manner will be essential for colleges to understand labour market needs and reconcile them with student demand,’
  • Construction companies will be able to benefit from more sustainable availability of local labour;
    • Louise Townsend, Sustainable Business Director at Morgan Sindall and Trudy Langton-Freeman, HR Business Partner at Costain, stated that ‘The skills shortage in the sector is rapidly becoming a serious impediment to the industry’s ability to deliver above and beyond what is expected of it. We must work together as an industry to define and predict the timely provision of these industry-critical skills.”
  • Local authorities will be able to collaborate on the design and delivery of local skills provision;
  • Local job brokerage initiatives will operate more efficiently and effectively.
    • Chris Dransfield of Crossrail sees great potential for SkillsPlanner to, ‘reduce brokerage costs and improve outcomes for all our stakeholders.’
    • There is even the opportunity to focus on future skills, so those needed for the far longer-term sustainability of the industry, as recognised by Alex MacLaren of BIM2050: ‘Highlighting the importance of understanding skills needs in the longer term, the collaborative premise of this new platform, harnessing available data to improve efficiency, awareness and reduce waste, is exactly the innovation we want to see in the future construction industry.’

I asked SkillsPlanner project director Rebecca Lovelace why she was so excited by this and she told us that ‘SkillsPlanner is an Ethos ‘perfect storm’. It demonstrates how a genuinely collaborative approach can create an economically viable solution to a complex urban challenge, resulting in a positive social outcome.’

With innovation like this happening alongside the Chancellor’s announced focus on the importance of the UK’s infrastructure and his appointment of Lord Adonis who has the energy and drive to see it through, maybe, just maybe this time it will work.

Let’s face it, to quote from George Osborne’s speech on the 5 Oct 2015, “Without big improvements to its transport and energy systems, Britain will grind to a halt”.

Let’s not let that happen for our children, families, friends and ourselves.

Ethos launches £1.3m collaborative solution to skills shortages

SkillsPlanner Logo

Ethos’s most ambitious initiative yet, SkillsPlanner, an innovative approach to solving skills shortages, has been awarded £827k development funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. SkillsPlanner is a data platform that will allow stakeholders within an industry or sector to share current and future employment needs, facilitating collaborative planning, training and brokerage to meet the industry’s requirements.

Ethos and project partners* secured the funding through the ‘Solving Urban Challenges with Data’ competition: SkillsPlanner is based on a powerful Linked Open Data platform, created by technology leader and project partner Seme4. It will launch with a two-year R&D project focussed on the London construction industry which needs an estimated 180,000 new skilled entrants to deliver construction projects in the capital and the South East by 2019. Ethos and its project partners will invest a total of £1.3m in this development phase.

Key projects such as HS2, Tideway and Crossrail, planning authorities including Westminster and Islington, main contractors, supply chains, training providers and industry bodies will share skills supply and demand data. The data will be integrated and linked to create a platform that enables:

  • skills providers to define existing provision and develop demand-led training
  • businesses to benefit from more sustainable procurement of local labour, reduced resource and HR costs
  • local authorities to collaborate on the design and delivery of local skills provision; and
  • local job brokerage initiatives to operate more efficiently and effectively.

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Key industry figures have pledged their support for the project.

In a joint statement, SkillsPlanner partners Louise Townsend, Sustainable Business Director at Morgan Sindall and Trudy Langton-Freeman, HR Business Partner at Costain, set out the case for a collaborative initiative: ‘The skills shortage in the sector is rapidly becoming a serious impediment to the industry’s ability to deliver above and beyond what is expected of it. We must work together as an industry to define and predict the timely provision of these industry-critical skills. SkillsPlanner provides a collaborative opportunity to do this.’

Chris Dransfield of Crossrail sees great potential for SkillsPlanner to, ‘reduce brokerage costs & improve outcomes for all our stakeholders.’

‘Mastering data sources and being able to analyse this data in a timely manner will be essential for colleges to understand labour market needs and reconcile them with student demand,’ says Martin Doel of the Association of Colleges.

Highlighting the importance of understanding skills needs in the longer term, Alex MacLaren of BIM2050 said, ‘the collaborative premise of this new platform, harnessing available data to improve efficiency, awareness and reduce waste, is exactly the innovation we want to see in the future construction industry.’

SkillsPlanner project director Rebecca Lovelace says: ‘SkillsPlanner is an Ethos ‘perfect storm’. It demonstrates how a genuinely collaborative approach can create an economically viable solution to a complex urban challenge, resulting in a positive social outcome.’

*Association of Colleges, Camden Council, Good People, Islington Council, Seme4, Tideway, Plymouth University, and Westminster Council.

SkillsPlanner is an inclusive and collaborative project. To find out more and get involved go to skillsplanner.net

Press contact Paul Wilkinson paul.wilkinson@ethosvo.org, 07788 445920, @EEPaul

About InnovateUK
Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency. It works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy For further information visit www.innovateuk.gov.uk

 

SkillsPlanner: yesterday, today and tomorrow

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I had no idea when my construction journey started that I would one day be writing this: today we agreed a £1.3m initiative that has the most fundamental of aims, to connect those that are out of work with an industry full of opportunity, and to do so in the most collaborative means possible.

SkillsPlanner went live today. It is a data platform that will allow stakeholders within an industry or sector to share current and future employment needs, facilitating collaborative planning, training and brokerage to meet the industry’s requirements. We have over 30 organisations already involved and the premise is very simple: share your skills supply AND demand data, do so collaboratively using Open Linked Data (it’s not a database, nor a report that will sit on a shelf), and join other passionate people that want to build a platform that is for use by industry, by training providers, by councils and by job brokers.

SkillsPlanner will one day be free for individuals and it is being built today by those that will use it tomorrow – and in 2050.

Yes, it is a hugely ambitious project. But the reason I’m doing it is because this is one amazing industry, full of opportunity, and it is crying out for workers. But the workers aren’t being trained with the skills employers need. And everybody knows this. And the image of the industry is poor. And everybody knows this. And there are pockets of exceptionally good practice, that not enough people know about. But the industry is fragmented and the challenge is just oh, so big.

BUT if you can get the right passionate people around the table, telling us, for example, that data needs to be standardised to reflect competencies and qualifications, giving time to share their expertise and knowledge and working on this data collaboratively, then together we can do something amazing. We will build SkillsPlanner TOGETHER. We will spend time doing it properly, in collaboration with anyone that cares about those that are unemployed, about those being trained in the wrong areas, about an industry that could be so much more to so many more people.

Come and join us. We’re going to do something amazing.