SkillsPlanner formally launched

SkillsPlanner launch holding slide

SkillsPlanner was formally launched last night (Wednesday 24 February 2016) at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London.

Over 130 industry guests were welcomed by SkillsPlanner programme director Rebecca Lovelace. She then introduced Andy Mitchell, CEO of Tideway, one of our SkillsPlanner partners, who described the challenges of delivering a mega-project under London that will require contributions from 20,000 workers during its design, construction and commissioning. With research suggesting 44% of firms struggling to recruit people with the right skills, he was adamant that the industry needs to collaborate more in order to attract the people it needs to deliver future built assets. He finished with a resounding call to arms:

Tideway Andy Mitchell at SkillsPlanner launch“This is a bold and ambitious two-year pilot…. SkillsPlanner has the potential to link employer demands for skills qualifications and behaviours to a responsive education and training sector who can train the individuals who can and will be the future of our industry. And I really hope this vision becomes a reality over the next couple of years …. let’s see what we can do to make something of this because we do need change. And this is a really exciting opportunity to secure that change….”

Sir Nigel Shadbolt, chair of SkillsPlanner partner Seme4 and co-founder of the Open Data Institute, then described the opportunity that Open Linked Data provides to give greater transparency on industry skills supply and demand, using the Tideway project and London boroughs as illustrations of the potential power of the data-driven platform being developed. “SkillsPlanner is a planning tool, an engine to help us draw conclusions about future skills,” he said. But he twice identified challenges in gathering data:

“The challenges will not be technical. Ultimately, they will turn out to be human, about how far we can persuade collaborators to actually provide data – data that is fit for purpose and that we can move from a very siloed world.”

He continued:

“Whilst we will be able to furnish the technical platform, the real challenge is getting hold of the data, finding out if it has any of the quality attributes we care about, and is it actually categorising the things we care about. Data is often presented to us with the wrong codes or the wrong sets of divisions. Given the modern workforce, it’s collected against categories that seem fit for the 1950s. How do we build dynamic classifications of this workforce? Data should not be fixed – it should be dynamic and vary through time.”

A Q&A session allowed audience members to quiz a panel of experts involved with the project. Issues included how the data might be sourced and verified, how SkillsPlanner could be used by schools to enthuse teachers and parents, and how the industry needs to be more committed to guaranteeing worthwhile jobs and future careers following training.

Reviewing the event today, Rebecca Lovelace said:

Rebecca LovelaceIt was an amazing evening. There was a real sense in the room of people truly understanding the potential of SkillsPlanner and fully agreeing with the principle of open collaboration. The number of emails I have received today committing to supporting SkillsPlanner has been quite simply brilliant.

The number of organisations engaged with the project is a reflection of our belief that SkillsPlanner must be built collaboratively with its future users. If your organisation is interested in collaborating with SkillsPlanner, please do get in touch. It’s a truly exciting time and we will achieve so much more by working together.

Twitter stats SkillsPlanner 24 FebJudging from Twitter (see our Storify stream from the event, and we have more shareable content here), the event created a lot of industry buzz, with many follow-up discussions about how training providers, construction businesses and other industry bodies can get involved, particularly by supplying data. If your organisation would like to contribute to the project, please email skillsplanner@ethosvo.org.

SkillsPlanner and The Sharing Economy

LGiU logo

SkillsPlanner project director Rebecca Lovelace will be talking about SkillsPlanner at a seminar, The Local Authority and the Sharing Economy, organised by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU), on 23 February 2016 at the NCVO near King’s Cross in London.

The Sharing Economy

The Sharing Economy is a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human and physical resources. It includes the shared creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services by different people and organisations.

It is estimated that 25% of UK adults are already sharing online and that global revenues in the sharing economy could rise from £9 billion today to £230 billion in 2025.

The sharing economy allows people to share property, resources, time and skills across online platforms. This can unlock previously unused, or under-used assets – helping people make money from their empty spare room and the tools in their sheds they use once a year. It allows people to go from owning expensive assets, such as cars, to paying for them only when they need them.

Local authorities and the Sharing Economy

Local authorities are increasingly looking at the sharing economy and how it might work for them to enable and empower communities, to provide community care for those in need and to optimize the resources that they can share with other agencies.

In the UK some local authorities are looking at sharing the local authority’s building with local community groups; building new housing developments with car club bays incorporated and integrated into the local transport network and creating local online hubs where residents and businesses can share their skills and possessions with each other.

Collaboration and SkillsPlanner

Rebecca LovelaceThe 23 February seminar will focus on how local authorities might unleash the power of the sharing economy for their local communities and for collaboration between agencies. It will feature case studies on resource and information sharing – which is where Rebecca and SkillsPlanner fits in.

She will describe how the project has developed to date, and talk about its ambitions for the future. Its core partners already includes three London local authorities – Camden, Islington and Westminster councils – with further local authorities and other public sector organisations part of the wider team providing contributions in kind alongside numerous private sector collaborators.

Click here for more information about the LGiU event.

SkillsPlanner in Scotland

Teambuild poster

While the initial focus is on London, we are thinking long-term and SkillsPlanner is already reaching out across the UK. Some of the SkillsPlanner team took the project’s message to Wales earlier this month (read our Catch them when they’re older post), and this week it will be Scotland’s turn.

One of SkillsPlanner’s industry partners, the BIM2050 group, along with the TeamBuild initiative and the Edge Commission (authors of the excellent Collaboration for Change report – PDF here), is leading a week-long ‘Innovation Learning Week’ at Edinburgh University.

Thanks to Alex MacLaren, SkillsPlanner will be featured in activities on Wednesday 17 February. During the day, Alex is planning a pan-discipline workshop discussion of construction industry issues involving students from a range of construction-related fields – “from first year to PhD mechanical engineers, from architects to civil engineers, planners and surveyors….”. In particular he wants to debate: “what will the construction jobs of the future be?

Industry guests will join the event during the afternoon, and there will be a public seminar in the evening. Participants include Robin Nicholson (Edge, Cullinan Studio), Sandy Halliday (Gaia Research, CIBSE), Paul Jowitt (past president of the ICE), Simon Foxell (Edge, Green Construction Board), plus practitioners from local firms including AECOM, Mace, Reiach and Hall, and Bowmer and Kirkland.

If you are interested in participating in the Edinburgh event, there is more information on the Teambuild website. Email Alex (alex@teambuilduk.com) if you want to attend.

Construction skills: an intelligence briefing

SERIOsummaryp1

Not only is the UK construction industry very fragmented – something we mentioned when talking about building a better built environment industry – it is also very dynamic: it is a sector which is constantly moving and changing. As a result, the SkillsPlanner team must constantly monitor relevant developments, shifts and trends in employment, education, training, skills and technologies.

To help keep all our stakeholders updated about such changes, Plymouth University’s SERIO applied research unit is part of our team, and it recently produced its first intelligence briefing on the UK construction industry skills landscape (PDF) – one of several SkillsPlanner background briefings now available in our media section. A series of SERIO briefings will be published throughout the two-year SkillsPlanner programme, written in clear, non-academic English, and intended to engage our audiences with the ongoing R&D project.

The state of the construction sector

As we are still in the early intelligence and data-gathering phases, the first briefing provides a broad initial overview of the key issues affecting the demand and supply of skills within the construction sector in London and the southeast. On the demand side, the ageing workforce (see previous post), technological changes such as adoption of modern methods of construction, government regulations, and the impact of the recession are summarised. On Supply of skilled workers, the briefing looks at:

  • the industry’s (in)ability to attract potential recruits
  • employer attitudes
  • the limited completion of apprenticeships
  • regional imbalances in qualification levels
  • migration
  • volume of training provision, and
  • local issues affecting travel to work or training.

The briefing then outlines recent developments including the establishment of the National Infrastructure Commission (post), changes in apprenticeship funding, plus funding for further and higher education, and area-based reviews. As well as giving a readable outline of key changes, the briefing also includes hyperlinks to source information.

New data

CITB 2016-2020 forecastPerhaps inevitably, given the volatility of the industry, almost as soon as we published the briefing, one of these sources was updated. Today, we’ve been browsing through the latest CITB/Experian Construction Skills Network Forecasts 2016-2020, which shows over 230,000 new construction jobs need to be created across the UK by 2020.

We believe SkillsPlanner will help the UK meet that target, and in this video, project director Rebecca Lovelace describes how.

We will be publishing more information about the project throughout the next two years. Another, longer, video (including a clip filmed at SERIO in Plymouth) will be published later this month when we formally launch the SkillsPlanner project at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London on 24 February. If you haven’t received an invitation and would like to come to this event, please email us at skillsplanner@ethosvo.org.

Catch them when they’re older

Construction will need to find

SkillsPlanner isn’t just about young workers. It will also embrace programmes focused on the three R’s: in this case, returning, retraining and retaining.

A lot of the UK construction skills shortage rhetoric tends to focus on ‘catching them when they’re young’. For example, we read about making the industry more attractive to young people, encouraging young people to look at science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) routes to future careers, and promoting construction-related apprenticeships to school leavers. All very laudible, but additionally there are huge opportunities for older generations of workers.

Returnship programmes

Tideway logoIt was encouraging today, for example, to read how SkillsPlanner partner Tideway is specifically targeting potential industry returners, including women who have taken time out to raise families, with a programme of paid-for internships. Commited to creating a more diverse workforce, Tideway CEO Andy Mitchell sees the returnship programme as an obvious way to attract experienced and able workers:

“It is widely recognised that one of the biggest pools of untapped talent is with professionals who have taken a break from their career, and then found it difficult to find work in their area of expertise because of the gap of relevant experience in their CVs.

“Building on our successful returner programme from last year, the first outside the banking sector, we have expanded our scheme to include our delivery partners Amey, Costain, Ferrovial Agroman and Laing O’Rourke. This, combined with our flexible working policy, provides a very positive pathway for professionals to return to a fulfilling career.”

Returnship programmes are among the initiatives that SkillsPlanner is intended to support and exploit to bridge the gap between industry demand for skilled workers and individuals looking for rewarding careers.

Retraining redundant workforces

A related opportunity is to look at retraining workers from other industry sectors. For example, in recent months we have seen major redundancy programmes affect steelworkers in north-east England and south Wales, among other areas; many of these workers will have transferable knowledge, skills and experiences that can readily be redeployed in the construction sector, particularly if there are major regional projects offering potential employment.

Insite Forum (image shared by @insite_forum on Twitter)Yesterday, SkillsPlanner team members attended the launch of the In-Site Forum at Celtic Manor near Newport in south Wales and heard how skills shortages are creating a damaging ‘bidding war’ for skills. Event organisers Acorn, Y Prentis and The Celtic Manor are collaborating in a bid to avoid this, and support for their cause came this week from Sir Terry Matthews, chairman of the Swansea Bay City Region local enterprise group. He told Construction News that a government rethink on the long-term funding of the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon Project could be key to providing much-needed employment for workers who have lost their jobs.

While SkillsPlanner’s initial focus is on London and the south-east, we are keen to extend the concept to cover other parts of the UK.

Retaining older workers

CIOB report coverOf course, skills shortages might be reduced if we didn’t lose construction workers in the first place. The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has been researching the effects of the ageing population on the construction industry and in its second major report, Exploring the Impact of the Ageing Population on the Workforce and Built Environment (PDF here), published in December 2015, outlines how retaining ageing workers’ knowledge and skills is also crucial: we need greater investment in and recognition of ageing workers.

With 19% of the construction workforce set to retire in the next five to ten years, the CIOB said employers need to overcome stereotypes and repurpose, where necessary, job descriptions to attract and, most importantly, retain older workers. Importantly, this is not a substitute for investing in training, but should work hand-in-hand to help alleviate the ongoing skills crisis. CIOB deputy chief executive Bridget Bartlett said:

“… if construction is to meet the skills crisis it faces and fill the 224,000 vacancies needed by 2019, … employers must also recognise the skills of their existing workers and put in measures such as flexible working, career reviews or even retirement planning to encourage longer working lives. … Skills shortages in construction are compounded by those entering the industry not being suitably qualified for the position. We should take this opportunity to use older workers to tap into their skills and knowledge and ensure they are passed onto the next generation.”