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Offsite construction to go mainstream with £1.2m CITB investment

Offsite construction is going mainstream with the biggest expansion in teaching materials so far.

CITB has agreed £1.2m funding for two projects that will increase the skills capacity for this growing sector in education, for school leavers and among industry trainers.

As a result of this investment, industry and education will have free access to a range of standardised, innovative and blended learning materials. Trainers in education and industry will be able to upskill themselves in offsite manufacturing and construction, alongside an outreach programme for secondary schools to show a new generation the career opportunities involved.

The projects are being led by the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC), and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

Offsite construction is the manufacture and assembly of construction components ahead of installation onsite.

Research has shown that offsite or modular construction can increase productivity and reduce timescales and build costs compared with traditional methods, with nearly half of employers expecting to use offsite techniques within the next five years.

The projects will be pioneering a collaborative approach involving employers, providers, contractors and leading innovation organisations that will bring new, free, innovative training materials to industry.

CSIC will help establish an offsite construction competency framework, while both projects will draw from existing training materials and industry knowledge to create the new content, mapping it to current training and qualifications.

Teaching support and upskilling programmes for offsite trainers will be developed, with sessions taking place across the country to upskill trainers in key offsite roles and functions.

Steve Radley, CITB Strategy and Policy Director, said: “Offsite construction creates a range of exciting new skills needs and opportunities, including in assembly, digital technologies and installation. We’re looking to build these into training at both entry level and also to enable upskilling within the industry, because getting this right can mean a more multi-skilled, diverse and productive workforce.”

Rohan Bush, CSIC Head of Public Partnerships and Future Workforce, said: “It is time to think differently about construction, because carrying on as we are is simply not an option – our industry needs to modernise. Offsite construction can efficiently deliver a high quality, mass-customisable product that is technically advanced, offering social, environmental and economic benefits. It can speed up the construction process, lower the impact of adverse weather conditions on projects, and reduce costs while also improving safety. But to ensure that offsite becomes mainstream, we need a workforce with the necessary skills – and that’s where these projects come in.”

The MTC's Ian Buckingham, construction skills manager, said that developing offsite construction capability is a key priority to address poor productivity in the sector and also to meet Government housing targets.

He said: "The primary purpose of this project is to develop the capability and capacity of the construction industry training network. This will be achieved through the development of a common and consistent set of training materials that are freely available for trainers, and through the upskilling of existing and new trainers. The MTC is at the forefront of emerging technologies, productivity and efficiency and we are very pleased to provide the construction training sector with the support it will need to drive construction forward."

Materials developed will be for use in classroom, virtual or immersive, and practical experience environments.

On completion of the project, to ensure there is the widest access to these training materials partnerships have been formed with the National Open College Network (NOCN); Structural Timber Association; Laing O’Rourke; Transport for London (TfL); the Construction Wales Innovation Centre; Class Of Your Own; Ministry of Building Innovation and Education; City of Glasgow College; and Edinburgh Napier University’s Institute for Sustainable Construction.

Through their networks resources will be available to major contractors, their supply chains and more than 600 education and training providers in England, Wales and Scotland.

Find out more about the offsite projects that CSIC and MTC are delivering.