CIPR Education Journalism Award Sponsor, Tideway, blog about the need for action and real engagement on skills between education institutions and business.
By Scott Young
The entire construction and engineering sector is seemingly preoccupied with addressing the industry’s skills shortages.
Barely a week passes without senior figures appearing in the media anticipating a crisis in the delivery of housing and infrastructure projects unless concerted action takes place to meet the skills gap.
More than half of construction industry employers now cite their biggest employment challenge as attracting the widest talent, outstripping those more concerned with retaining their existing workforce and upskilling staff.
Countless cross-industry partnerships, government departments, sector skills councils and employers agonise, almost daily, over the issue and debate possible solutions.
The recurring theme among all of these is the need for better links with the education sector.
Many of those in the industry believe they are playing their part.
Major projects and construction companies run comprehensive education programmes; producing curriculum resources, sending ambassadors into schools, providing work experience placements or mentoring students.
Many run graduate schemes and offer bursaries, whilst the creation of apprenticeships is now also commonplace with employers are increasingly creating roles that train up to foundation degree level or above.
More than one hundred engineering and construction firms are involved in government trailblazer schemes to develop new apprenticeship standards. The planned apprenticeship levy is based on the levy administered by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) on firms to pay for upskilling and training.
CITB has also recently launched a new website – Go Construct – to provide more information to young people about available jobs and careers.
But this is only half the equation.
Schools, colleges, careers advisers and teachers and, most crucially, students themselves need to be receptive to industry efforts and willing to engage.
One in five careers advisers believe a career in construction is unattractive. Among young people, that increases to one in three. The industry must do more to promote itself and the positives of a career in the sector to overcome this image problem.
Two thirds of careers advisers admit they offer no information on jobs prospects based on available work. In further education that has to change; a closer relationship between the funding of courses and the jobs likely to be available in industry after qualification will help.
There is too little focus in education settings on making learning relevant to the workplace and using the help that employers offer as a means of doing so.
Meanwhile apprenticeships are seen by many in education as being for those who lack academic excellence and the ability to progress to a university education.
Amongst all the other demands on our education professionals it is easy to see why some of these issues might fall down the list of priorities.
Over the last four years, Tideway has established great relationships with many schools in London who see the value of working with the sector to enhance their offering to young people.
Only when a similar view is adopted en masse across both industry and our education partners will we truly stand any chance of meeting the skills shortages of the future.
Scott Young is Skills and Employment Manager at Tideway: www.tideway.london
The CIPR Education Journalism Awards will take place on Thursday 12th November at Dartmouth House in Mayfair.