Fresh funding announced to tackle construction skills gap in rural areas

Ian Hughes

SCOTLAND’S rural areas are to receive a welcome boost after the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) announced that the Scottish construction sector is to receive a £5.4 million cash injection for training and retraining more skilled workers.

The investment is to help the industry face the skills challenges of the future, with the money poised to be spent on creating three hubs with a brief to expand opportunities for employment through onsite experience in mostly rural areas.

The CITB said the investment will build on the success of the Construction Skills Fund (CSF) in England. CITB’s Construction Skills Network report shows that construction requires 168,500 skilled people to enter the industry over the next five years, including 13,950 in Scotland, where the sector is forecast to grow by 0.5%.

Ian Hughes, CITB partnerships director for Scotland said, “This major cash injection will give the Scottish construction industry a real boost, specifically within Highlands and Islands, Borders, and rural East Scotland. A target of 4,500 individuals will be site ready during this period, replicating the success of CSF with a 30% conversion into sustained employment in the sector.”

CITB chief executive Sarah Beale added, “Onsite Experience comes at a critical time for construction when it will need to grow more of its own workforce. This is a key part of our strategy to help construction recruit its future workforce, which will also include a major careers campaign and substantially increased support for employers taking on apprentices.

“Meeting demand for new homes and investing in infrastructure requires more skilled people in construction. We face the perfect storm of an uncertain post-Brexit migration system, and an ageing workforce with many set to retire in the near future. It is therefore essential that the industry attracts, trains, and retains new talent wherever it can be found to ensure construction isn’t hampered by a shortage of site-ready workers.”

Over the next three years, CITB explained that the Onsite Experience Commission will help provide 18,000 ‘site-ready’ workers and help the sector grow more of its own workforce. 20 new hubs will be established on construction sites across Scotland, England and Wales, tailored to provide training in trades where particular shortages have been identified.

Many of the hubs will be in rural and ‘left behind’ areas. Each hub will develop links between employers, colleges and local government to meet locally identified skills needs. The industry is being invited to apply for funding over the coming months.

Sarah Beale added, “Britain urgently needs more construction workers, and more opportunities for people from every background and every region. I am confident that by making its largest ever investment in the onsite experience commission, CITB can provide the construction industry with the modern workforce it needs to become more inclusive, more sustainable, and construct a better Britain.”