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Contractors World  - UK & Ireland
2013 Vol 3 No 5
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Construction News & Economy

Construction expert warns of ‘skills time bomb’ - continued

Students are ready and willing but need educating as well as training hence the need for better collaboration.

Students are ready and willing but need training as well as educating hence the need for better collaboration.

The latest figures from the UK Employment and Skills Almanac 2011 show that in 2010 44% of employees in the construction industry were aged 45 and above - almost a 10% increase from 2002. Meanwhile the number of employees aged 24 and under in the industry, fell from over 13% in 2002 to 9% in 2010.

“There is a clear trend emerging from those figures,” Mr Leslie said. “It shows an ageing workforce, which is not being balanced by the recruitment of younger employees. It is a skills time bomb which will explode as we emerge from recession.”

A report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) released earlier this month also suggests that Scotland’s construction industry may be turning the corner after an extremely difficult few years, with an increase in the number of new projects being reported.

Mr. Leslie is currently spearheading the launch of a new Construction Management course at RGU aimed at commencing in September 2014, which has been developed in consultation with the industry. The revised course also takes cognisance of the new education framework prepared by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) which identifies the skills needed to equip the construction managers of the future.

“We have been engaging with the industry as to what they need and want from graduates, so we can tailor the course to be as relevant as possible to the current marketplace,” he said. “It is hoped that the first graduates from this course will be completing the degree in 2018 so we are encouraging employers to think about what they will require at that point.”

Mr Leslie also strongly believes that companies should be working harder to build more links with students while they are at college or university, offering paid placements on a level with other part-time jobs but giving them vital industry experience.

“You can’t beat hands-on experience,” he said. “It would give the students a feel for the environment they will be working in and an opportunity to enhance and apply their academic learning. This must result in a dual benefit to employers and students alike and is certainly a lot more useful than a similar level of job in an entirely unrelated sector.

“I appreciate that small and medium size businesses (SMEs) are just trying to keep their heads above water at the moment, and I understand and sympathise with that. However, as we move ever closer to the supermarket model where a handful of players control the market - the top 150 construction companies now account for over 80% of the UK workload - the SMEs need to start thinking ahead to what will happen when skills are lost by people leaving the industry to join other sectors, more staff start to retire and there aren’t the people with the required skills to step into the gap.”

Collaboration between universities and the construction industry

The current collaboration is, typically, the University curriculum dictated by professional and qualification bodies because the industry is so fragmented.

Under this method, the industry see universities as trainers but universities are educators. The end result is both sides criticise the other. Industry complain that the graduates not possessing the skills which they need; the Universities complain of the lack of support from industry.



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