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Why Productivity Lab underlines the importance of cooperative relationships

An upcoming blog will run through some of NOCN’s partnerships with a variety of organisations that share our ideals and aspirations.

The idea was inspired when I reported on a particularly productive working relationship, which sprang from our ongoing support programme for UK construction, in a rundown of the benefits presented by offsite manufacturing (OM).

One way we’re helping promote and encourage OM and other advances that will support and enable the construction sector, is by sponsoring Productivity Lab, a bold new initiative from WordSkills UK.

This organisation helps young people from all backgrounds get the best start in work and life by boosting the technical capabilities, mindsets and employability of apprenticeships and other learners through vibrant, relevant skills competitions.

Productivity Lab has been kickstarted in response to a recent major CBI survey, which showed that nearly three-quarters of businesses say productivity is the overriding driver for upskilling their workforces. Currently, we are trailing a long way behind other developed nations: it takes the UK five days to produce what our rivals in Germany and the USA can deliver in four.

This 20% deficit may not sound that much, but when factored in over the entire national sweep of manufacturing and service sector enterprise, it amounts to a huge hit on GDP. It threatens economic security and self-sufficiency and personal advancement and social mobility on a massive scale.

Challenging this trend of lagging productivity is key if we are to make the most of the fourth industrial revolution and the potential it offers through AI and robotics. To meet the challenge, Productivity Lab will draw out and utilise the experience and know-how of delivering world-class excellence that exists in some of our top companies.

It will bring together and harness collective research, knowledge and international best practice to accelerate young people’s development through a dynamic series of skills competitions. By offering training, mentorship, support and insights, businesses will create a unique productivity partnership, which will be a platform for raised working efficiencies, increased output and lowered lag times.

In particular, it will have a powerful focus on the two keenest areas of interest to employers of every type and size - STEM and digital. According to the CBI report, 82% and 66% of businesses cite these as the utmost priorities respectively for the future skills viability of their workforces.

As such, more than half of the Productivity Lab skills competitions will be in STEM and digital subjects and the initiative will explore deeply highly specialist disciplines, like cloud computing, cyber security, VR and lab tech. These are all crucial fields for engineering and construction employers, if they are to equip themselves to match the demands and challenges of upcoming decades.
This is precisely why leading education providers and commercial groups have joined us in getting behind the new initiative. They include Dudley College - which offers highly innovative future-facing construction courses – and major companies, such as Laing O’Rourke.
It’s good to work with other like-minded organisations - comparing notes, pooling resources and swapping expertise. Among WordSkills UK’s partners are Amazon, Apple, Facebook, BAE, Rolls Royce, Balfour Beatty, Redrow, Morgan Sindall, HS2 - and us!
To find out more about NOCN’s other powerful partnerships, watch out for the next blog, which will give a flavour of some of the partnerships we are proud of.
For more information on WordSkills UK, go to

Graham Hasting-Evans, Managing Director, NOCN