We will consider how to reach out to young people to attract new talent as well as at standards of professionalism and solutions to ensure we are equipped for a green economy


Providing the skills and education for a new sustainable economy

Construction is facing significant challenges around skills and education. A shortage of skilled staff is driving up costs and impacting everyone’s capacity to meet demand. There is a real danger that a lack of expertise in retrofit is holding back efforts to reduce energy consumption and cut heating bills. And the entirely avoidable tragedy of the Grenfell fire and ensuing Hackitt review exposed systemic failings in the way that construction professionals are trained, and the industry is regulated.

Over the coming year the Building the Future Commission will be taking a deep dive into the underlying issues behind the Skills and Education crisis. With the expert guidance of our 19 commissioners, including Neal Shasore of the London School of Architecture and Tim Balcon of the Construction Industry Training Board, we will highlight best practice and seek to identify the changes we need from government and industry to drive a new green economy and a skills revolution.

Reaching the young

There is a growing consensus that the construction industry needs to reach out to its potential future workforce and stakeholders when they’re young. A career in construction can be seen as low status and undesirable. Industry needs to challenge these misconceptions and engage with children to create a new narrative where young people perceive themselves as having agency in creating the world around them.

This is not only about bringing young people into construction, but also a wider agenda of engagement with the built environment. Construction is central to building strong communities and a healthy economy.

>>Click here for more on the Building the Future Commission

We surely need to foster the inherent fascination that many children have in the construction process and highlight the potential that construction has to change lives. The built environment accounts for 25% of UK carbon emissions. This puts construction at the forefront of addressing the climate crisis – a mission that should be used to galvanise a new generation of constructions professionals.

training skills

A career in construction should be seen as both professionally rewarding and of value to society. By reinforcing this message, industry will improve its chances of attracting the best talent.

Equipping people to succeed

The UK has a woeful track record in terms of vocational training and equipping people with the skills they need to succeed in life. Government and industry have failed for decades to ensure that school leavers have the support and opportunities to learn a trade.

This has not only undermined our economic performance – it has meant that successive generations have been let down and denied the opportunity to succeed in life.

The recent focus on apprenticeships marks the beginning of a process of reversing a historical trend where vocational skills were looked down upon and devalued. The UK needs a coordinated and concerted effort to equip the workforce for the construction jobs that need doing and the commission will look at ways of achieving this more effectively.

Training people so that they have the skills to retrofit our poorly insulated housing stock is seen by many as the most urgent priority.

Giving people the chance to learn a construction trade is not selling them short – it is equipping them for success. If we equip people with the skills they need, then we can start talking about the kind of economy we want, but we need fresh thinking on how to do this.

New standards of professionalism

The tragedy of Grenfell exposed a litany of failings amongst consultants, suppliers and contractors. But construction arguably lacks a common strand of education to tie together its disparate elements. Could this be addressed by having more transferable training courses and modules in competency and fire and safety regulation? 

Architects, manufacturers, and builders should have a mutual understanding of what each other do, and their shared responsibility to deliver safe and high-quality construction. By designing training courses and university degrees to have transferable modules in core areas, construction can improve levels of competency and create new opportunities for talented individuals to move between design and construction.

Architecture has a central role to play, but is it time to stop trying to replicate 19th century forms of professionalism and start responding to the actual needs of industry and society in the 21st century? The tricky thing is how to do this and this is where the commission comes in.

Lifelong learning

The future of work is increasingly cross-disciplinary and non-linear. To enable construction professionals to navigate an ever-changing employment landscape, and maintain their core competence, education needs to constantly evolve.

Learning needs to become more affordable and readily accessible. Innovations in education technology, such as remote learning, provide the opportunity make this happen.

Micro credentials and short modular courses will become the norm as we all increasingly become lifelong learners.

Assessment of competency at all levels of education is likely to become linked to outcomes (performance and competency), rather than inputs (hours spent learning).

The green economy, retrofit, skills and heritage

The retrofit first agenda has the potential to bring together many of the most critical education and skills challenges.

The UK has huge quantities of high-quality buildings of historic interest and cultural value. Retaining existing buildings can have benefits in terms of reducing carbon.

By making better use of our historic building stock, we could help deliver a greener economy, and preserve valuable heritage. Yet the country lacks many of the skilled tradespeople to deliver on this potential – both in terms of retrofit and heritage conservation.

This is where government, training providers and industry need to come together to realise the huge opportunities for sustainable growth.


Building the Future Commission


The Building the Future Commission is a year-long project, launched to mark Building’s 180th anniversary, to assess potential solutions and radical new ways of thinking to improve the built environment.

The major project’s work will be guided by a panel of 19 major figures who have signed up to help guide the commission’s work culminatuing  culminate in a report published at the end of the year.

The final line-up of commissioners includes figures from the world of contracting, housing development, architecture, policy-making, skills, design, place-making, infrastructure, consultancy and legal.

The commissioners include Lord Kerslake, former head of the civil service, Katy Dowding, executive vice president at Skanska, Richard Steer, chair of Gleeds, Lara Oyedele, president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Mark Wild, former boss of Crossrail and chief executive of SGN and Simon Tolson, senior partner at Fenwick Elliott. See the full list here.

The project is looking at proposals for change in eight areas:

>> Editor’s view: And now for something completely positive - our Building the Future Commission

>> Click here for more about the project and the commissioners

Building the Future will also undertake a countrywide tour of roundtable discussions with experts around the regions as part of a consultation programme in partnership with the regional arms of industry body Constructing Excellence. It will also set up a young person’s advisory panel.

We will also be setting up an ideas hub and we want to hear your views.

>> Email buildingfuturecommission@building.co.uk to get in touch