Training and developing staff is not only essential if the construction industry is to be as good as the client demands, says the CITB's director of training strategy Sheila Hoile, but also if the industry is to fulfil its workers' career ambitions
The construction industry is in good shape. As one of the largest industries in the UK, it employs around two million people and it continues to grow. We're all well aware of the reputation Britain has for world-class design, inspirational architecture and high-quality building work, but a fully qualified, trained and proficient workforce is necessary in order to sustain that standard.

This requires a continuous training structure that meets the needs of employees throughout their career.

If you have a training need your company is more likely to train you than ever before. More time and money is now being spent on staff training, according to a recent survey by the Construction Best Practice (CBP) benchmarking sector study for the UK construction industry. However, although construction companies are realising that their only competitive resource is their staff, and that a well-trained workforce is an investment, not a cost, staff training is still below the national average.

It is well documented that a well-trained workforce is more motivated, committed and loyal to their employer. This is because of a number of factors that could include the extended opportunities training offers to progress your career, the challenges that training brings and the evidence that the company is also committed to you. If the company you work for is "in scope", grants can often be claimed to cover all or some of the costs of training, so developing your career need not be a costly process. It need also not take up too much time, or be off the job; Onsite Assessment Training (OSAT) offers the opportunity for you to acquire necessary skills while staying on site. One-day courses are often recommended for a refresher or brief introduction to basic skills or concepts, whereas longer professional courses can benefit those wanting to make the jump from one management level to the next.

One thing to remember is that training will only be effective if the lessons learned are implemented back at the workplace

For example, professional courses aimed at site supervisors and managers working on site, such as CIOBs, the Certificate in Site Supervisory Studies (CSSS) and the Certificate/Diploma in Site Management (CSM/DSM) attract grants from the CITB and often allow course graduates to make that move upwards.

Countless senior decision-makers in all types of construction firms have found Learning by Doing useful in developing their roles as well as those of their companies. Learning by Doing is a series of workshops that equips delegates with practical tools to help them make real changes at work. Drawing on the skills and knowledge of some of the UK's top trainers, the programme has been set up by the CITB and Construction Best Practice. The days cover the key issues facing the industry, and feedback from our highly successful 2002 programme indicates that 97% of delegates have already been able to implement what they learned in the workplace. This is one of the programmes that the CITB helps finance, using some of the £1.5 million put aside each year to support the delivery and development of management and supervisory training resources, often in collaboration with the federations.

The CITB has placed great emphasis on the need for sufficient graduates with the right knowledge and skills to help bring about the changes the industry has set itself to achieve. In order to attract more graduates into the sector the board set aside £250,000 to encourage companies to provide sponsorships to those entering construction related degrees. This is in addition to the grant that is available for construction employees wishing to return to education to study for a construction related degree on a part-time basis. This is often the preferred route of those who have entered the industry as an apprentice and would like to have qualifications behind them as they climb that next rung.

Going places