A personal landmark and also one for SkillsPlanner. This month saw a meeting with the Policy Unit at Number 10 Downing Street, attended by myself, Scott Young (Tideway, right) and fellow Ethos partner Colin Middleton (who heads up the SkillsPlanner councils and brokerage work packages). The meeting followed an introduction made by Mime Consulting, who have developed Skills Route (a portal to help young people understand their options after finishing GCSEs). Number 10 asked for more information and offered a meeting, so we went along to explain the project.
It was a very successful meeting. Lots of time given for us to talk (we went over the allotted time by about 20 minutes), with some pertinent questions asked and further connections made. All rather exciting.
It is always helpful to engage with fellow industry professionals as we seek to improve UK construction, and I am looking forward to presenting with my SkillsPlanner colleague Chris Dransfield at next month’s CIRIA half-day conference, “Addressing the skills gap“, in London on 6 July 2016.
As you would expect of a research and information organisation, the CIRIA event will look at recent and current surveys and academic research highlighting current shortages and gaps in skills (some of which have previously been discussed on our SkillsPlanner blog), including:
The CITB CSN, for example, predicts sustained growth from 2016-2020 of 2.5% every year and says we could require 232,000 new jobs, driven largely by infrastructure and private housing, with new nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point, Somerset, and Wylfa, Anglesey, alongside rail projects such as Crossrail and HS2, and increases in house-building.
The CIRIA conference will explore current industry initiatives, research and trends within the construction skills gap area, and will enable the sharing of ideas and best practice through presentations and discussion relating to these initiatives and trends. We are looking forward to discussing:
- How can we make the construction industry more attractive to graduates and school leavers and what are the barriers to attracting new talent?
- What are the current models of graduate schemes and apprenticeships and what initiatives are currently challenging and improving these processes?
- What are the future skills (digital, off site manufacturing, sustainability skills) that we need develop through staff training and apprenticeships, and how can we diversify the opportunities for people entering the construction sector?
- How can we ensure supportive and inclusive environments and improve retention rates?
- Can skills provision adapt to accommodate changing construction environments and technologies?
If these are questions that you have been asking in your own organisations, it would be great to meet you at the conference on 6 July.
As a collaborative R&D project focused, initially, on the construction skills challenges of London and the southeast, our SkillsPlanner team has learned a lot about the need for joined-up thinking in and around the capital. We have also watched the London Mayoral and Greater London Assembly elections with considerable interest. Now that the votes have been cast, we hope Sadiq Khan, his GLA colleagues, and his proposed “Skills for Londoners” Task Force will make a profound difference in how we deliver future skills to support new housing and infrastructure over the next five years – and beyond.
As the CIOB’s CEO Chris Blythe recently remarked, the lack of a construction skills pipeline could damage the London Mayor’s housing and infrastructure plans. But it’s not just about our immediate skills shortages.
We also need to show young people that they can enjoy a long, exciting and rewarding career while they help deliver our built assets. And as London grows and technologies change, our people also need to know they can retrain, gain new knowledge and skills, and continue to contribute to the London construction economy.
Our ambitions seem well aligned with Mr Khan’s manifesto commitments:
- to “develop a city-wide, strategic approach to skills…”
- to “map the skills gap”
- to “create a pipeline of skilled London workers”, and
- to “close the gap between our … housing targets and the need for more skilled construction workers in London.”
To do this, in our view, high quality information – data – will be vital. If we can clearly forecast future skills needs and match London organisations’ ability to deliver, we can reassure both workers and employers – and London policy-makers. I hope Sadiq Khan encourages more pan-London data-sharing, including via SkillsPlanner, to help us make construction better connected and more resilient.
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.