Securing the future of our industry

Alan Burns 3
Alan Burns

By Alan Burns, Divisions Manager for City Building

There have been reports for some time of a skills gap in the construction industry where talents like bricklaying, steel-fixing and concreting are in short supply.

One way of addressing this loss of skills within the industry is to encourage more young people to consider an apprenticeship as a career route.

Scottish Apprenticeship Week is a reminder to organisations of the important role that apprenticeships play in securing the future of our industry and the increased need for a more strategic approach to nurturing and growing talent within the industry.

Quality apprenticeships can help people progress and succeed and they can help businesses create the skilled workforce they need to compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace. But while some employers have made investing in their workforces a key part of their business strategy during the economic slowdown others have been less ambitious.  As the construction industry shows signs of improvement following a prolonged downturn, now is the time to act. 

When I began my career as an apprentice blacksmith in the early 90s I was fortunate to have secured a position with City Building (formerly known as the Building Services Department of Glasgow City Council). The organisation recognised my potential and supported my career development through my apprenticeship and beyond helping me gain an MBA in Resource Management and an LLM in Construction Law. This ethos is woven throughout the fabric of what we do and demonstrates why City Building has one of the most successful apprenticeship programmes in the UK with a 92% completion rate compared with the industry average of 74%.

Apprenticeships are critical to business growth and development no matter what sector you belong to. They provide a continued pipeline of talent that will help secure the future of the business and inject new ideas and enthusiasm into the organisation. But more needs to be done to ensure that enough companies offer them.

Adopting a structured and continuous apprenticeship programme is a sustainable way of growing and retaining a highly skilled workforce. However, the development of apprenticeship programmes and securing future talent cannot be done independent of the wider business strategy it must be part of a more structured approach and be an integral part of future business plans.

By creating apprenticeship programmes that focus on workforce development through training initiatives, performance improvement programmes, educational engagement and sector engagement we can ensure that people will see the long term benefits of a career in the construction industry which offers real career progression.

What is clear is that companies must broaden their outlook by developing more structured apprenticeships that match their needs with a clear strategy for identifying future talent. By doing this we will secure long term change which can bring about a major improvement in the skills within the construction industry.