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Building the construction operational workforce of 2030

The paper is a detailed response to changes being proposed by H.M Government and specifically the Department for Education in respect of the delivery and funding of qualifications within the UK.

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With construction being a key sector in terms of the UK economy it can clearly be a driver for economic growth and productivity at the same time underpinning a more rapid transition to the much-desired green economy; skills, however, must provide the necessary ‘engine room’ for the sector to achieve its goals.

Drawing upon detailed research and, critically, the opinions and views of the construction industry itself, the paper highlights numerous key areas of concern. It reveals the sector-wide assertion that the removal of funding from Level 2 and below qualifications, certainly on the scale projected, will have a dramatic and deleterious effect on the construction sector specifically and the wide UK skills landscape at large.

Recruitment of sufficient numbers of competent workers has been a long-standing challenge for the construction and built environment sector. In addition, the existing skilled operational workforce needs to upskill for transition to the green, digitised, productive competencies and jobs for the next decade.

If we are to deliver what the economy requires, we need to resolve the skills gap challenges, particularly of the operational and first level of technical and supervisory employees (educational Level 3 and below) which account for 59% of the industry’s workforce.

The whole of the industry, working with government (central and local), needs to collaborate, including CITB, ECITB and the various trade associations together with the training providers and awarding organisations that supports it, to tackle this longstanding problem.
Building on what we have done to date, there are a number of workstreams we view as necessary:

  1. Attract a sustainable and diverse workforce by improving the image of the industry, changing the structure, employment arrangements, terms and conditions and work based/on site facilities.
  2. Improve productivity in the sector by embracing technology and training not only for new recruits, but a major programme of upskilling for all sector employees.
  3. Align the industry to the sustainability and green skills needs of the economy for 2030 by clearly defining what we mean by 'green’ in our sector and identifying key priorities for green skills.
  4. Support this move by aligning, modifying, and modularising existing occupational standards and being clear about the new occupations needed. Improve industry’s collaboration with training providers so that they are clear about what is needed and are then fully supported by industry and government to be able to deliver the skills and competencies that are required.
  5. Simplify and improve funding and enable access to Levy and other funding by self-employed operators, micro-businesses, and SMEs, to ensure that the whole industry can upskill.
  6. Establish a flexible and proactive education and skills TVET system, with a set of supporting government policies, which will support the delivery of the skills that industry needs in 2030. This will require investment in the operational workforce (Level 2 and below) as well as the technical and professional workforce (Level 3 and above). The TVET system needs to include occupational traineeships, bootcamps, accredited courses and modularised apprenticeships and qualifications, based upon the revised existing occupations and the new occupations recommended above.

The Cross Industry Construction Apprenticeship Task Force (CCATF) and NOCN Group (NOCN) have come together to create this document in consultation with CCATF’s membership.

With multiple connection points and linkages to the issues, both organisations have a direct interest in ensuring that the optimisation of any skills, training or apprenticeship related environment is maintained.

The CCATF is a cross-industry initiative with the objective of increasing employer engagement in apprenticeship training. The CCATF is a membership organisation representing the interest of its members, which consist of construction employers, both main contractor and sub-contractor level. Also, within the members community are training providers, colleges, universities, charitable and 3rd sector companies.

NOCN Group is an educational charity whose core aim is to help learners reach their potential and organisations thrive. The group includes business units specialising in regulated UK and international qualifications, End Point Assessment, assured short courses, SMART job cards, assessment services, consultancy, and research. NOCN has been at the forefront of vocational skills development and apprenticeships for over 30 years, including the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in the UK.

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