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Tackling the Skills Shortage

Peter Francis Blog: Peter Francis

The government has set an ambitious target to build 300,000 homes every year in England alone but a severe shortage of construction workers could hinder this target being met.

As a social enterprise and procurement organisation offering a range of construction, property and built environment frameworks we have long been committed to tackling unemployment and supporting skills training within the construction industry – from helping young people to develop a career via an apprenticeship (we’ve created 485 new apprenticeships to date); to supporting others to get back into work or find sustained employment.

Our approach to skills development

Via our Social Value through Planning offer we regularly work with local authorities and developers to secure apprenticeships, training and employment opportunities that are directly linked to public planning processes. This often involves us working with local colleges and schools to promote available careers within the construction industry; plus arranging site tours and work experience.

But our offer doesn’t stop there. We support a variety of organisations to provide apprenticeships through our Social Value through Consultancy offer, and our procurement frameworks include social value clauses that focus on delivering training, apprenticeships and employment opportunities.

We also self-fund a ‘Through the Gates’ programme, helping ex-offenders to obtain qualifications and secure employment - often within the construction industry - as they rebuild their lives following release from prison.

Some of our success stories:

Nick Ardern, 47, Northwich

After being unemployed for five months 47-year- old Nick Ardern found work on the £80 million Barons Quay project in Northwich – a development which created a thriving retail and leisure quarter.

Fusion21 provided social value consultancy on behalf of main site contractor Balfour Beatty, and supported Nick to gain his Level 1 Health and Safety qualification, and renew his CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) training, needed to work on a construction site.

As a result, Nick was offered a full-time role working for Balfour Beatty as a vehicle banksman.

Nick said: “I had spent 30 years working in the construction trade mostly as a Hod-carrier for teams of brick-layers – and carrying out labouring duties - before work suddenly dried up. “Not having a job after all of those years was really tough – aside from the income, I missed my routine and the camaraderie of those working in the building trade. It’s great to be doing a different role, and having a chance to expand upon my skills.”

Sam Barratt, 17, Northampton

17 year-old Sam Barratt is an apprentice working on the 1000 unit Monksmoor Park housing development in Daventry, Northampton – offering a collection of 2, 3, 4 and 5 bedroom family homes.

Fusion21 is supporting Daventry District Council to meet apprenticeship and training targets on site, and working in conjunction with site developer Crest Nicholson to create job opportunities.

Sam said: “I’ve just started my plumbing apprenticeship so I’m incredibly fortunate to have been given on-site experience on such a large construction site – which is being built in five phases. I’ll be able to apply all my learning to theoretical side of my college work and vice versa.

James, 41, Kirkby

Accessing additional support from Fusion21 following release from HMP Liverpool, 41-year-old James from Kirkby needed help to secure a job in Liverpool on a construction site as a Handyman – a role which would see him getting involved in erecting scaffolding, signage and site fencing whilst putting his joinery skills to the test.

Fusion21 provided James with PPE gear and a variety of starter tools. “Knowing I had support from Fusion21 on the outside was a huge relief,” said James.

“You can’t start a job in construction without any equipment, so without Fusion21’s support this opportunity wouldn’t be possible. Regaining control of your life after spending time in prison is really tough but the help I have received to get me ready for work has been overwhelming – I wouldn’t have been able to self-fund the tools so this means everything to me.”

Construction industry statistics

A recent survey by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) - which represents small and medium-sized SME construction firms – illustrates the severity of the skills shortage in the construction industry.

With figures at the highest since the FMB began gathering data in 2008, key findings highlighted:

• 68% of survey respondents said they struggling to hire bricklayers while 63% are having difficulty finding carpenters and joiners. The figures are the highest since the FMB began gathering data in 2008 and suggest the skills shortage gap is increasing.

• The number of firms reporting difficulties hiring plumbers and electricians has reached 48%, plasterers 46% and floorers 30% – new highs in every field.

• Only 38% of master builders surveyed in the last quarter of 2017 predicted rising workloads in the following three months, down from 41% in Q3.

• Builders predict spiralling costs with 87% believing material prices will rise in the next six months, up from 82% in the previous quarter. 61% expect salaries and wages to increase in the same period.

For more information about how we can support your organisation to tackle unemployment within the construction sector get in touch on 0845 308 2321.