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CSN report highlights need for continued collaboration

CITB’s Construction Skills Network (CSN) 2018-2022 forecast shows output and employment growth despite recent political and economic upheavals. Here, Chief Executive Sarah Beale shares her thoughts on the collaborative approach needed to keep pace with the demand for skills.

The construction sector faced a range of challenges and uncertainties in 2017.

Industry saw uncertainty arise from Brexit negotiations, in the markets and, crucially, for employers eager to plan ahead. The construction sector has been equally shaken by the liquidation of Carillion, at the start of this year causing additional market unease and most significantly delivering a real blow to the company’s thousands of employees and their families, as well as those engaged in the supply chain.

Our CSN report shows that despite these problems the UK’s construction sector has withstood a tough 12 months of uncertainty, transition and tests. These challenges have led to a national focus on the skills and employment challenges facing both the construction sector and the country.

Encouraging trends in construction

Construction’s continued growth, forecast to average 1.3% over the next five years, along with news that employment will rise for the fourth year running, is encouraging.

However, to recruit the extra 158,000 construction workers required to meet demand by 2022, industry must collaborate on a range of skills and recruitment challenges.

UK construction needs to boost apprenticeships and work placements. It also has to reduce the skills supply gap and accelerate the pace of modernisation.  As part of this CITB needs to reform and modernise swiftly, too, as demonstrated in the feedback during our biggest ever Levy consultation.

A refreshed approach to training

Turning to the challenges posed by Brexit, industry must refresh its approach to training, focusing on recruiting a UK-based workforce. As Brexit negotiations progress CITB will lead on developing the evidence base needed to help industry and government make informed skills and investment decisions. We will also coordinate training and make the case to government on what a future migration regime could look like.

Productivity remains a key construction challenge. November’s multi-million-pound sector deal was a welcome step forward in this regard. It will see big investment from construction firms and help produce high-skilled workers.

Housing remains an industry priority. In last November’s budget the Chancellor pledged to increase the annual rate of house building from 217,000 to 300,000. The CSN report shows that housing output, both public and private, will expand at a reasonably robust rate to 2022.

Great work I've witnessed

In my first year as CITB Chief Executive I have seen excellent work to boost skills and employment across the UK.

In Scotland the Modern Apprenticeship (MA) programme continues to go from strength to strength with over 5000 modern apprentices currently in training.

Meanwhile in 2018, Wales, which has the highest projected growth rate in the UK for the fourth consecutive year, will see the opening of the Construction Wales Innovation Centre, a unique venture which will annually train over 1,000 people.

Since last year’s Levy consultation CITB has a clearly defined path, one directed by industry towards meeting the future skills challenges.

This forecast offers industry room for cautious optimism and evidence to make informed planning decisions. CITB looks forward to collaborating with the sector to supply the skills it needs in the crucial years ahead.