Mark Farrar, Peter Lobban’s successor as ConstructionSkills chief executive, sets out his manifesto

Mark Farrar, appointed last week as the new chief executive of training body ConstructionSkills, has pledged that increasing diversity in the workforce will be one of his top priorities.

Speaking just weeks after ConstructionSkills was forced to apologise for an advert depicting a scantily-clad woman, Farrar – who will succeed Peter Lobban in the £259,000 post in August – said more should be done to bring women and ethnic minorities into the workforce.

He said: “Diversity in the workforce is probably the key medium-to-long-term issue for the industry. I want to bring together stakeholders to see what we can do to take on the agenda.”  

Farrar said he would also focus on addressing the provision of apprenticeships and improving skills training for sustainability to position ConstructionSkills at the “leading edge” of the industry.

He said: “We’ve got to look at how things will be in the future. Things like sustainability – where do the skills come from to deal with it? How do we need to change and adapt to the challenges that it brings?”

Farrar was formerly corporate services director at ConstructionSkills, responsible for managing the levy and grant system, and overseeing the business and finance side of the skills body.

He also has experience in the political arena, having acted as chief executive of government agency the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.

He said: “We must adapt to the changing needs of the industry. One of our top priorities must be to develop the number of apprentices, but we must be sure to work with governments and skills bodies for all four nations in the UK to see that no-one is left out.”

Bob Blackman, head of construction for the T&G section of the Unite union and a board member of ConstructionSkills, welcomed Farrar’s appointment.

He said: “We’re very pleased that Mark was appointed. We’ve had plenty of dealings with him through the CITB board, and we think he’s a very capable and able person. He should do an excellent job.”

Sir Michael Latham, chairman of ConstructionSkills, said: “I am delighted to confirm that Mark received a vote of confidence from all sectors of the construction industry, and from our other important stakeholders, during the interviews. His excellent track record in his present role also proved to be decisive.”  

Farrar’s list of challenges

  • Ensure ConstructionSkills continues to receive funding from government – currently worth about £10m a year
  • Improve diversity – ConstructionSkills recruited 22% fewer female and ethnic minority workers last year than the year before
  • Lobby government to ensure the construction levy will be retained
  • Rebuild the National Construction College