Having been involved in the construction industry in various capacities since 1965, I find it hard to recall a time when there have been greater opportunities for the sector.

Not just business opportunities – though they are considerable – but also the chance to overcome some of the challenges that still face the industry. The challenges are to:

  • Secure sufficient recruits, of the right calibre, to build for the future;
  • Ensure that our existing workforce is trained to the necessary standard;
  • And help firms to work better as businesses.

I am delighted that ConstructionSkills was chosen to develop one of the first “pathfinder” sector skills agreements (SSA). Through our SSA, we believe we can draw employers, educators and training providers together in order to achieve our vision of a fully qualified, highly professional industry, working safely to deliver outstanding value to clients.

Over the summer, deals have been done to deliver a sector skills agreement for construction. The key elements of the SSA are collaborative action plans addressing the industry's major skills challenges. On the following pages we look at these challenges and some of the solutions the industry has signed up to in order to address them.

It is an achievement to get this far. The SSA offers significant increased employer commitments to training and skills through supply chains and a financial strategy in which £120m a year will be provided for collective training activity.

But to be truly successful the SSA will need to secure commitment from the suppliers and funders of training – government, colleges and universities (see “The government’s role”, page 30). The extent of this buy-in we will know in the new year, but the success of the network of Sector Skills Councils will depend on SSAs. Can they deliver the fundamental changes in training provision they promise? Only time will tell, but construction has given it its best shot.