Ecobuild latest: Construction mandarin pledges to make public sector ‘client of choice’

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The government outsources too many client skills and must up its game to become construction’s “client of choice”, according to a top civil servant.

David Hancock, head of construction at the Cabinet Office, told the Ecobuild conference the government was rolling out training programmes to improve client skills on major projects like HS2 and Crossrail 2.

He said: “We’re looking to upskill government and to become construction’s client of choice. We give away too many skills, we have outsourced too many.”

The government has introduced a Major Projects Leadership Academy to help address the problem, which offers an 18-month training programme for public sector workers overseeing major projects, Hancock said.

He also said the construction workforce needed to be better equipped with “digital skills” and must be more mobile, adding: “We have 4,000 schools to deliver and they are all across the country.”

In a panel debate on the skills crisis in construction, Build UK chief executive Suzannah Nichol said the sector needed to get better at training the next generation of workers.

She said: “It’s really hard work to train people. It’s just not good enough for employers of today. We have an industrial training board [the CITB] so we have all the tools we need. We need to make our training second to none.”

Pauline Traetto, director of the BRE Academy, said the government should cut VAT on training courses to help address skills shortages.

Build UK has launched a video campaign designed to help improve the image of the sector and attract young people into the industry.