The Beijing Olympics are mainly being built by British firms, but if we don’t want our own Games built by eastern European labour, we need to train our young people now
The Beijing Olympics: a British success story. To most people, especially those in China, that statement willcome as a surprise.
However, the fact is that all the major stadiums at next year’s Chinese extravaganza will have been designed, supervised and delivered by the Brits.
The Beijing Olympics will be a showcase for British firms’ skills in innovative engineering, quantity surveying, and architectural design. Our shift to selling overseas means we are cashing in on competitive markets in the developing world which pay for services as well as commodities.
Already the voices of discontent and opposition are mustered against the 2012 London Olympics. Whereas legitimate complaints can be laid at the doors of those who foolishly put definite numbers on a changing and uncertain situation, for once let us look at the positives of the UK’s hosting the world’s greatest sporting event.
During the 2012 Games and the five years leading up to them, the UK will be the focus of world attention. To all doomsayers, I say: get used to it – the Olympics are here so let’s go for it and deliver something that will add value to our country, enhance the wealth of its people and leave a legacy of which our children and their children will be proud.
It is likely that the Olympics will create wealth, but it is down to the construction industry right now to ensure that its contribution to society becomes a lasting one.
The Games are the greatest work opportunity the UK construction industry has ever been offered. It is important not to see this as the London Olympics, but as the UK’s Games.
We cannot waste a moment in investing in better processes, more efficient systems, and recruiting more and better skilled people into a sector that is historically resistant to change, new systems, and innovation.
A 16 year old this summer, will be 21 when the 2012 opening ceremony takes place. The age of 16 is a junction in a person’s education – let us have the courage to adapt the training and work environment for this age group to something more suitable for the 21st century.
Legitimate complaints can be laid at the doors of those who foolishly put definite numbers on a changing and uncertain situation
The industry must turn the heads of those young people who feel that higher education is not for them, and persuade them to enter a career that is beneficial to them and important for the country’s economy.
Anyone involved in the sector should make special effort to involve schools and colleges in giving youngsters the skills and vocational training to deliver London 2012 on time.
We have the opportunity to buck the prediction that builders in 2010 will bemoan the lack of skilled people and the poor conduits of materials and service supply.
If a builder in the north of England does not want to suffer the consequences of his local talent pool gravitating to south-east London, he should prepare now, through increased training and by encouraging local educational establishments to deliver more raw recruits.
The government’s clumsy introduction of the policy of encouraging young people to stay in some form of training until the age of 18 belied the excellent philosophy behind it.
There are many 14 years olds for whom a claustrophobic, systematised school environment is totally unsuitable. It is not unreasonable to insist that they spend four years out of the class room, participating in a disciplined structured system of lectures and workplace experience. That is what the government means by “staying at school until 18”.
For many young people in northern cities of Britain, London 2012 is geographically and economically irrelevant. It is down to us, the construction industry, on the front line of vocational training, to make sure it is not. We need to make our Olympic Games a meaningful legacy for young people, for whom they will provide the chance to acquire skills for life, a sense of importance in the construction of a project upon which the world will be focused, and a route to good money, and therefore the finer things in life in the years ahead.
I don’t want my country’s capital city having its infrastructure built by Poland … do you?
Sir Digby Jones is the government’s skills envoy and the former director-general of the CBI. He is a non-executive director of Bucknall Austin