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Construction employers call on Government for education rethink to meet future skills demand

Construction employers, decision makers, educators and students called on Government to help plug the construction technology skills gap and safeguard the sector’s workforce future, at an event last week.

On Thursday (3 March), Construction Minister Lee Rowley attended Moulton College’s Construction Future Skills exhibition and workshop, in Northamptonshire, where more than 30 employers met to address skills challenges facing the industry – now and in the future.

Their solutions included asking Government to facilitate better on-the-job training, through more work experience opportunities and by making apprenticeships more technology-focused. A better flow of learning between schools, colleges and employers, improved integration of education and industry, and increased emphasis upon – and access to – lifelong learning were also highlighted as vital.

Supported by Constructing Excellence (CE) Midlands and the National Federation of Builders (NFB), the event encompassed an exhibition to showcase new technologies, and a workshop focused on establishing the hard and soft skills construction needs for the future – while exploring how best to deliver them.

Mark Wakeford, Moulton College Governor and Joint Managing Director of Stepnell Ltd, said “I was really pleased to hear lively discussion around our sector’s future training requirements, common ground among delegates, as well as openness and honesty in sharing their own experiences and progression.

“Current students were keen to learn the hard skills they need to succeed in a construction career, while industry leaders highlighted the soft skills also needed to complement these, which will ensure new entrants add well-rounded value. Industry leaders emphasised the importance of lifelong learning – ever-more important in the fast-changing world of our construction industry. However, it is clear challenges with courses and awarding bodies remain to be resolved.”

Speaking after his visit to the Construction Future Skills event, Construction Minister Lee Rowley, said: “It’s been fantastic to meet some of the young people looking to make construction their career and see their enthusiasm for seeing first-hand the technology paving the way for the future of this industry.

“These students could be tomorrow’s leaders of the change we are all trying to enact, so it was truly inspiring to hear some of the discussions, ideas, and creativity from them, as well as industry innovators driving construction forward. It’s so very important that all voices across the sector are heard, and that we come together to provide the right opportunities, education, and inspiration to the next generation to make a real difference to the way we build and achieve our goals of increased sustainability and innovation.”

The workshop encouraged debate, sharing experiences, learning, and networking between attendees. Its findings will be delivered via a report to guide industry, education and government in driving change.

Moulton College Principal & CEO Corrie Harris said: “Our construction industry is always adapting and improving and is embracing innovation faster than ever. At Moulton College, we are in a privileged position to help nurture and grow the sector’s talent coming through, while also speaking to employers regularly about what their current and future skills needs are – so today has been a unique way to bring those two groups together.”

The Construction Future Skills exhibition running alongside the workshop saw innovators and contractors showcase some of the latest construction technology on the market, illustrating how AI, automation, robotics, and other technologies are changing the way we construct.

Exhibitors included 360safeVR’s immersive film and behavioural change programme; Software-as-a-Service platform for Building Information Modelling 3D Repo; KOREC Construction’s mixed reality headset and augmented reality solution; Flannery Plant’s plant simulator; digital construction solution Oculo; geo-spatial technology specialists Ridge & Partners; leading regional construction business Stepnell; free-to-use platform for apprenticeships, traineeships and work experience in construction, Talentview Construction (TVC); Tenstar Simulation’s machinery and training tools simulator; and Winvic’s virtual reality health and safety training.

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