Pauline Traetto – Technology and the skills gap

INDUSTRY INSIGHT: Pauline Traetto, Director of BRE Academy

As the pace of technological change increases and technology is adopted more widely across construction this creates a new skills gap. New entrants into construction will be expected to have a different skillset and experienced manual tradespeople will need computer competencies for the first time. Pauline Traetto, Director at BRE Academy highlights the need for new training to make our workforce ready for the digital age

Employing almost 3 million people with an annual GDP of 7%, construction is a major sector of the UK economy yet about one fifth of all vacancies in the wider sector are persistent and hard to fill. Employers struggle to recruit staff with the right skills, qualifications or experience, and the demand is forecast to rise even further. Earlier this year the BRE Academy set out to explore the issues at the heart of this problem and to try and find some solutions.

We began this process with a survey that spanned all roles, from boardroom leaders to building site workers, and we are now working on our second survey. What has clearly emerged so far is that BIM, sustainability and smart technology skills are all in short supply. These are the key skills for achieving a high quality, sustainable built environment as well as enabling growth. Alongside training those already in management and leadership roles, the vital skills that the industry requires, present a great opportunity for us to attract young people and new talent.

The current perception is that construction is all about ‘muddy boots’, lack of diversity and inflexibility. Given the huge role that sophisticated technology currently playing in industry, job and career opportunities are very different to those normally associated with the built environment, and salaries are higher too. Demand for off-site construction is rapidly growing, and alongside this, is the need for skills around the high level of automation involved. For younger people, technology is an integral part of their lives and with the built environment undergoing major improvements through technology and innovation, communicating the inspiring career opportunities that are now available is vital. Even those learning a trade will need more than traditional hands-on skills, such as an understanding of BIM and of the digital tools being used for achieving sustainable buildings. In other words, joining the industry is no longer a matter of ‘muddy boots’.

Apprenticeship programmes are now supporting people from varied sectors to enable broader perspectives and skills. This is a positive move, but we need to do more. According to research by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), 224,000 new people need to be recruited to the sector by the end of 2019 to meet demand. We therefore need to change perceptions of the industry, ensure skills training that reflects its forward-looking 21st century nature and create a level playing field, where all training providers work to the same standards of training, assessments and processes. The UK construction industry is hugely admired, with many markets aspiring to our standards. If we are to continue to be innovators, leaders and key global players, we don’t have the luxury of time: we need to work together, address the issue and meet the challenges right now.

Don’t miss Pauline Traetto at Digital Construction Week 2016 from October 26-27 at the Business Design Centre, Islington. Click here for information..