More traineeships key to new industry skills strategy

The latest industry-wide skills plan addresses the shortage of workers by expanding traineeships and focusing on competence rather than qualifications.

The plan was published by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) People and Skills group to lay out annual goals for the industry and government to tackle the skills shortage in the built environment, which is beset by a record level of vacancies, totalling 50,000 in the first quarter of 2022.

This is the second such plan and builds on a mandate published last March. New initiatives include scaling up trade-based traineeships, which help young people to gain work experience in construction trades. The existing bricklaying traineeship will be pushed further, alongside the introduction of the same opportunities in carpentry and joinery, painting and decorating, and drylining.

The CLC is also doubling down on its collaboration with the Competence Steering Group (CSG) to set up six ‘pilot’ sector-specific competence frameworks for priority occupations. These include plumbing and heating, drylining, fire detection and alarms, fire stopping, rain-screen cladding and roofing. The frameworks are also aimed at reaching higher levels of safety in the industry.

Currently, the CLC and CSG is working to build a competence framework for installers, which lays out the specific skills needed for jobs in the sector, as agreed widely. Current challenges include the lack of uniformity across the supply chain, in-work progress for experienced workers without qualifications, and the difficulty of tapping into small business, sole traders and the self-employed.

Group chairman and Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds said progress on the skills plan would be made if more parts of the industry got on board and worked together.

“We can make fantastic progress if we get more parts of the industry involved in what we are seeking to accomplish,” he said. “The new skills-plan update will help us to achieve our goals by setting out where we want to be by the end of this year and outlining how our industry can get involved.”

Other highlights in the skills plan include restoring apprentice starts to pre-COVID levels by next year, bringing about 3,000 starts on a skills bootcamp, securing 1,700 active construction STEM ambassadors, and delivering 28,000 work-experience taster sessions.

For the final three months of 2021, the number of construction vacancies fell slightly, to 42,000, but was still high by historical standards.

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