This week’s OECD international league table on education reminds us in the UK that we can take nothing for granted - and that’s true too of construction
This week’s OECD international league table on education reminds us in the UK that we can take nothing for granted and that the past does not guarantee the future.
So it is with construction.
Before the fall of Lehman Brothers and the most painful peacetime economic contortions for a century, construction benefitted from an economy that could readily afford to build schools, offices and homes.
We were a sector that was in demand to create the built environment expected of an affluent and confident society.
But it wasn’t just the pipeline of work that was healthy.
The pipeline of talent to complete those order books was flowing. Then came the recession. With the order books went the pipeline of talent. The story is as predictable as it is regrettable.
Now the economy is coming back and our sector can see an end to the slog.
We will not be able to deliver what’s asked of us in the medium and long term if we do not skill up
But we face a real challenge if we are to contribute- as we can- to rebuilding the UK’s economy: shortage of skilled talent.
The recession forced some businesses to push training and skills down their list of priorities.
Understandable, of course. Damaging? Let’s hope not.
With the vital data about the demographics of the construction workforce as the elephant in the room, we need to redouble our efforts on skills and training; supercharge them in fact.
We will not be able to deliver what’s asked of us in the medium and long term if we do not skill up.
And we won’t be able to skill up without the pipeline of talent to educate, train, shape and mould.
This challenge doesn’t start with training. It starts with marketing- our industry, our sector- to the next generation of QSs, craftsmen and women, project managers.
This generation will be in demand from other industries: from finance to tech to law to media. If we don’t fight hard for their attention we stand no chance of getting them even to the starting gate for training.
Our sector can compete with anyone for this talent: we build the schools in which they’d otherwise teach, the offices in which they’d otherwise write code, the studios in which they’d otherwise design…the list goes on.
Let’ s make a concerted effort to attract their attention, to demonstrate what a career in construction means, to woo them and to train them.
The sector needs this flow of talent; so does the UK- economically and socially. Construction contributes, we know that. Time to stand up-again.
James Wates is chairman of Wates, the CITB and UKCG