Construction action plan focuses on skills shortages and new technologies

Skills Development ScotlandTackling skills shortages and developing the use of new building techniques have been highlighted as priorities in a new Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s construction sector released by Skills Development Scotland (SDS).

Published today, the new strategy follows consultations with employers, industry bodies and trade associations from across Scotland’s construction industry.

Ed Monaghan, chief executive of Mactaggart & Mickel and chair of Construction Scotland, said: “Scotland’s construction industry cannot rest on its laurels, and as we move into a more positive economic outlook, there is a greater need than ever for new skills and workforce development.

“A failure to act now in a concerted manner will see the industry missing out on growth opportunities, and by engaging with the themes of this action plan, employers and businesses have the potential to help Scotland’s construction sector to become more innovative and dynamic.

"There is a greater need than ever for new skills and workforce development." - Ed Monaghan
“There is a greater need than ever for new skills and workforce development.” - Ed Monaghan

“More young people will view construction as an exciting career option, current industry professionals will see a wider range of career opportunities, and businesses will have the skills and flexibility they need to react to the changing economic landscape and to anticipate future demand.”

The Skills Investment Plan identifies four main themes for action: attracting future talent to the industry; improving the skills of the existing workforce; modernising training programmes; and providing the skills needed for future growth.

This involves helping employers ensure they have access to a supply of core construction skills and also helping to foster the development of new skills such as off-site construction, building information modelling and low-carbon construction.

John McClelland CBE, chair of SDS, said: “Scotland’s construction firms faced a huge task weathering the economic downturn in recent years, and the ones which managed it best were those that could innovate and adapt to changing conditions.

“The skills shortages which many firms are now experiencing are a result of that downturn, and this has the potential to be a barrier to future growth.

“The Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s construction sector offers businesses of all sizes the opportunity to develop their workforce in a way which will boost their competitiveness and flexibility, not only in the short-term, but in the long-term as new building practices and technologies are adopted.”

The plan was also welcomed by Roseanna Cunningham, cabinet secretary for fair work, skills and Training, who said: “Construction has a huge role to play in Scotland’s economic future. It’s crucial that public and private sector partners work together to maximise the opportunities that this innovative and dynamic industry can offer to our young men and women both now and in the years to come.

“The industry-led Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s construction sector, published today by Skills Development Scotland, provides a strong framework for aligning public and private sector investment in skills.

“From looking ahead to how it will attract and retain people to work in the construction industry, including removing barriers to the recruitment of traditionally under-represented groups,  to looking at how it can modernise to meet future needs, this plan shows an industry that is ready to put in some hard work to ensure its future growth.”

The Skills Investment Plan for Scotland’s construction sector is being launched at the Scottish Building Federation’s Annual Conference in Glasgow today.

A recent report from the federation found that confidence in the industry was improving, but that skills shortages existed in a number of key trades and managerial positions.

"Tackling skills is now a critical priority for future growth." - Vaughan Hart
“Tackling skills is now a critical priority for future growth.” - Vaughan Hart

Managing director Vaughan Hart said: “Employers in the Scottish construction sector are increasingly confident about the industry’s future prospects and there are promising signs of recovery, but the industry has shed many thousands of jobs since the recession began and rates of recruitment remain far below pre-recession levels.

“Tackling skills is now a critical priority for future growth so we are delighted to see the publication of a dedicated Skills Investment Plan for the industry. SBF looks forward to working with Skills Development Scotland to ensure its successful implementation.”

SDS will work with employers and a number of trade associations and industry bodies, such as the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), in implementing the plan.

Phil Ford, strategic partnerships director (Scotland), for CITB, said: “As the construction industry emerges from one of the worst recessions in living memory the focus has now shifted firmly from the availability of work to the availability of skills.

“CITB welcomes this first ever Skills Investment Plan for the construction industry, which will provide a clear focus on how to address the current and future skills gaps and shortages, and to facilitate sustained economic growth.

“There is much work to be done to encourage inspiring young people to embark on fulfilling careers in construction, and to bring back experienced workers who have previously worked in the industry.

“CITB are working closely with employers, colleges, universities, unions, trade federations, registration bodies, Skills Development Scotland and other key stakeholders to do just that.”

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