We all know there's a shortage of builders and tradesmen in the UK. Well now the Government and the industry have got together to tackle the problem in a progressive way that should reap rewards for everyone involved.
The National Skills Academy for Construction is addressing the need for well trained builders by establishing training programmes linked to large construction projects. There will be no dedicated training college built - trainees will work on-site with experienced builders to gain the necessary skills and know-how.
In an industry largely made up of sole traders and small firms who cannot afford to commit to training budgets, this is a positive step forward. It also allows the fragmented industry to come together for training. Being part of a large construction project will put learning and instruction into context and will allow students to understand the bigger picture, and not just their niche area.
Of course this isn't the first time on-site training has been given in this sector - the building of Canary Wharf in London is famous for having helped train many budding tradesmen. But now this method of producing good builders is being formalised and will become the norm rather than a one-off opportunity for a few lucky hopefuls.
A national training programme requires some structure. Regional Partnerships are being established in the Government's nine regions of England and in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These partnerships include all the relevant stakeholders, including employers, colleges, regional development agencies and Jobcentre Plus representatives. Training and Education will then be provided by those stakeholders on a project by project basis. Employers will identify educational and training needs and these will be addressed on site and in mobile on site training centres, rather than traditional colleges. An Academy Advisory Board will be made up of stakeholders and will manage and deliver the aims of the Academy. At national level there will be a web-based exchange of innovative ideas for furthering training.
The Academy should benefit building contractors, large and small, and individuals as well as clients and local communities. The fact that employers will be at the heart of training means that real skills gaps will be addressed and the chances of good permanent work for individuals will be greatly increased.
High profile construction projects have already been able to benefit from the initiative. The Bishopsgate Development in the City of London was the first such project, in 2006. Others include a school building project in Manchester and now the Olympic Village in Thames Gateway. They are all large, high profile schemes that provide ample opportunity for training and innovation.
The race to get the Olympic Village ready by 2012 may of course drain tradesmen and builders away from other regions. But that only accentuates the need for good training so that key projects elsewhere can be completed. Over the next four years London will absorb a disproportionate number of workers in the industry, not only for the Olympic project itself but also for improvements to the city's infrastructure. These include upgrades to various underground lines, in anticipation of increased use during the Summer of 2012 and beyond.
Of course for some individuals traditional college and apprenticeship schemes will work best and for a number of sole traders this can be a cost effective way of getting some extra help. Particularly for men and women who want to concentrate on domestic projects this may be preferable to learning on the job on large building developments. But at least there is now a choice and training can be tailored to an individual's and a project's needs. And that will help the industry as a whole in a time of building boom.
Expert builder India Cooper explains the positive step forward taken by both the Government and industry to tackle the shortage of builders within the UK. To find out more please visit http://www.ratedpeople.com/find/builder