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BSRIA warns of ongoing training funding shortfall as Brexit looms

Research group has said the construction industry must do more to address a potential loss of skills and expertise at a time when Brexit is compounding market uncertainty

BSRIA has argued that a lack of investment in training remains a major issue still to be addressed within a construction industry that is also facing a number of emerging challenges linked to Brexit.

The not-for-profit building services research body said UK business faces its most momentous change for at least four decades when it is scheduled to leave the EU in just over two months. 

However, the government is yet to finalise its plans for leaving the EU in March. It delayed a parliamentary vote last month over whether to approve a agreement reached with the EU that set out the broad terms of any future relationship and regulatory alignment.

This uncertainty comes despite warnings from an amalgamation of industry bodies and manufacturers working in the building services sector on the need for ensuring an agreement that can limit business uncertainty and supply disruption by ensuring some customs arrangement with the EU.

BSRIA’s training development manager Mike Lee said that outside potential difficulties Brexit may pose for industry, the construction sector still faced a major challenge in ensuring existing expertise can be transferred before the predicted widescale retirement of its existing skilled workforce. He said that an estimated 22 per cent of workers in the industry were aged between 50 and 60, as opposed to just nine per cent being 24 years of age or under.

Mr Lee cited a BSRIA survey released in November that found that 78 per cent of surveyed member companies were struggling to find sufficiently qualified workers.

He said, “Government’s approach to this has resulted in a situation where in 2018 fewer students are considering university courses for fear of the debt they will incur. Its flagship apprenticeship scheme, for many seen as the utopian answer to encourage vocational training, is stalling, with only 114,400 overall starts between August and October 2017 compared with 155,700 in the same period in 2016.”

Mr Lee added that government attempts to reform its Apprenticeship Levy scheme in order to encourage and help increase apprenticeships across the industry were a welcome attempt to try and tackle a skills gap.

Sustainability implications

Ensuring sufficient education and vocational skills training was identified as being vital to efforts for a more sustainable construction sector that can meet government ambitions to curb greenhouse gas emissions over the next six years.

Mr Lee said that innovation would need to be encouraged within all levels of industry thinking, highlighting the importance of ensuring vocational training can be provided on an ongoing basis.

He added, “Short courses, in particular, offer the opportunity for exposure to the latest ideas, technologies, processes and techniques leading to an increase in our capacity to adopt new methods and technologies. From these foundations will spring improvements to our productivity.”

“The development of training modules aimed at recent entrants to the sector will make them more productive more quickly, improve worker motivation and reduce staff turnover and absenteeism.”

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