Sir Joe Dwyer sets up taskforce to address labour shortages and national competitiveness of local firms.
Former Wimpey Homes chairman Sir Joe Dwyer has set up a taskforce to tackle Merseyside's skills crisis.

Dwyer, now chairman of urban regeneration company Liverpool Vision, set up the Merseyside construction initiative after meeting the Construction Industry Training Board, the Learning and Skills Councils, developers and local authorities over the summer.

Dwyer has formed six sub-groups, looking at areas such as procurement, skills and finance, that will report back to him by December. Sophie Krajewska, head of regeneration policy at Liverpool council and a key figure in the initiative, said: "We will look at supporting small and medium-sized local firms. The thinking is that local contractors are most likely to employ local labour."

Krajewska added that one of the working parties will tackle the industry's image problems. She said: "We are not attracting young people into the construction industry in sufficient numbers. We want to ensure that local people benefit from the construction boom."

The decision to set up the taskforce was sparked by a report into Liverpool's skills crisis by consultant Amion. The report concluded that Liverpool firms had problems with procurement, national competitiveness and skills shortages. It said local companies needed help preparing tender documents so they could compete with national firms.

We are trying to develop competitiveness and help the disadvantaged

Graham Russell, Amion

Graham Russell, partner in Amion, said: "The initiative is trying to address the significant growth in construction on the back of Liverpool Vision and the amount of PFI projects. We are trying to develop competitiveness and help the disadvantaged into the sector."

Dwyer has decided that the scheme should cover the whole of Merseyside, not just Liverpool, and Amion is now attempting to quantify the exact level of skills shortage in the region.

The initiative is running in parallel with the area's Fusion 21 project. This was set up to encourage registered social landlords to pool their maintenance and repair work, to enable them to bid for larger, long-term contracts.