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.
The SkillsPlanner project was formally launched on 24 February 2016 at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London. Over 130 guests listened as programme director Rebecca Lovelace introduced the project, followed by keynote speakers Andy Mitchell CBE, CEO of Tideway (right), and Sir Nigel Shadbolt, founding partner of Seme4 – both organisations are SkillsPlanner partners.
|The launch presentations (mainly comprising Sir Nigel Shadbolt’s slides) are available via Slideshare, or click the image (below) to open a PDF version (7.4MB) – this will open in a new tab.
|Listen to our podcast of Tideway’s Andy Mitchell talking about the importance of investing in skills to support our major infrastructure projects (Click on image below – SoundCloud will open in a new tab).
Following the launch presentations, an expert panel fielded questions from the audience.
- During the evening, #SkillsPlanner featured heavily on Twitter, with over 200 tweets from more than 50 contributors. Read our Storify stream from the evening.
- Read our blog post about the event, and about the buzz it created.
- See how some SkillsPlanner partners marked the event – like SERIO.
Explaining SkillsPlanner has started to get a bit easier. While it is not yet ready for public consumption, we have been developing some of the concepts first shown at the project’s official launch in February and now have our first demonstration environment.
In February, the images used in Sir Nigel Shadbolt’s presentation (watch the video) at the Institution of Civil Engineers were what he described as “slideware”. Today, we have some working prototypes of key elements of the SkillsPlanner platform. For example, in an internal project webinar run by our data and platform package leaders, Gary Hunt and Ian Millard, on 26 April, we were able to show:
- examples of the kinds of data we are collating from public sources, project partners and collaborators
- our data catalogue (the list of datasets that we have collated to date to populate the platform)
- examples of different types of data reports – from simple tables, to pie-chart graphics, to maps showing geographical spreads and densities of data
We are currently exploring a variety of “user stories” – essentially, analysing how individual end-users will interrogate the datasets and understanding what insights they are seeking to get. In some cases we can map their requirements to data that we already have; in other cases, we are learning what data we need to add. Gary outlined some of the next steps:
“Some of this data might be publicly available and we’re making good progress cataloguing these. Other data, such as individual learner data, is available but under a restricted license so we’ll be working to gather that data. In all our work, we are being scrupulous in how we filter, aggregate and anonymise data so that no commercially sensitive information is shared and to ensure compliance with the Data Protection Act.”
Questions included: How do we decide what data to include? How will we link training provider courses to job roles? How is our data managed and maintained? and How do we ensure data remains current? (The webinar recording and Q&As are available for collaborators). We will be sharing further developments with project collaborators in another webinar next month (June 2016) as we build towards the point where we can start to show the demonstration platform to a wider industry audience.