Construction has hit a stalemate in terms of growth, with a major reason being the lack of skilled workers to meet future demand. Jen Longden of digital training platform Tequ says that by working more closely with the education sector we can deliver an increase in both learning and skills


Jen Longden is the CEO of digital training platform Tequ, which is part of Pagabo Group

The construction skills shortage has been well-documented for quite some time and, while everyone is aware of the current situation, there still appears to be a resistance to get together and agree a route forward. As such, we now lack the experienced professionals required to deliver the output needed in future.

Why is there a resistance to change?

This resistance largely stems from the fact that construction has always been – and remains – a very traditional industry. It provides a vital service in the UK and, because demand is so high, it has often meant businesses are too focused on the task in hand, rather than upskilling employees along the way and preparing for the future.

But, as we continue to travel along the road to net zero, the idea of futureproofing through new skills has never been more important.

That said, learning has never been high on the agenda for construction companies, but it is obviously an absolute priority for the education sector. Upskilling is an area where education shines because it is literally built for change and driven by industry, whereas the construction sector is very set in its ways.

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Education also strives to evolve and innovate and has welcomed digitisation, which has taken learning to the next level – another area in which construction is still working on getting up to speed.

That is why a collaboration between these two sectors would bear fruit for construction – taking the best of both forward into a truly upskilled workforce.

Why hasn’t there been a collaboration yet?

The education sector is monitored by the government and there is a preconceived notion that things under the government’s supervision always take time – time that construction just does not have. However, rather than not progressing a partnership, we should recognise how upskilling the sector can  outweigh the potential wait-time on a cross-sector collaboration.

In construction, decisions which move the needle are made by the most senior industry figures, whereas with education, even those at the top of the tree often have to seek further sign-off. However, let’s not forget that the construction industry has repeatedly shown its versatility in managing “red tape”, which bodes well for a potential partnership.

So how do we initiate a collaboration?

It would be easy to assume that construction and education have not come together previously, but this is not the case. There have been attempts to collaborate in the past, but the problem was that the wrong people were sitting around the table.

It is often the “heads” who attend meetings of this nature, but they rely heavily on front-facing staff members who are delivering the training. So, it is clear that the industry needs to trust more in its wider team with regards to upskilling.

It does not make sense for an individual to lead a discussion solely based on seniority – it should come down to who has the most knowledge and direct experience in a field.

Similarly, we often see learning fall under the responsibility of the HR team, which again is often not proactive and indicates that the sector needs to put an emphasis on hiring people and creating positions focused specifically on people development.

The need for continuous development

The construction sector is guilty of being extremely reactive when it comes to upskilling. There have been countless times when an industry white paper or a new piece of legislation has been released and professionals scramble to do their research to ensure they are compliant. It is the same with upskilling.

This reactiveness often means that development is not continuous. It becomes very stop-start, and we all know this is not the best learning environment. Continuous development is what has allowed the education sector to thrive and, by putting an emphasis on learning and introducing some regulation, so too could construction.

How to move forward

There is no quick fix to upskilling the construction industry, however the example from other industries is very clear, none more so than in education.

Having said this, before any discussions can start, the construction industry needs to recognise the urgency of people development and the importance of making it a priority so it can have these conversations in the very near future.

Once they have taken place, there is no reason why we should not see today’s professionals learning and developing within the sector – and the next generation coming through behind them.

Jen Longden is the CEO of digital training platform Tequ, which is part of Pagabo Group