By Joanne Hadwin, head of HR at the Cruden Group
SCOTLAND’S construction industry carries a huge responsibility. Not only is it being called upon to deliver up to 25,000 new homes annually to meet current demand, but it also has a significant part to play in lowering the country’s carbon footprint and helping it to meet ambitious environmental targets.
These goals are vital to the economic future and wellbeing of this country and to achieve them, the industry needs a skilled and motivated workforce capable of meeting the current challenges.
Scotland already has a hugely talented workforce of tradespeople and managers who have managed to carry on delivering high quality homes despite the site shutdowns and materials shortages experienced over the last 24 months. But in order to keep performing many more workers are needed to join the existing ranks.
This isn’t just as a result of Brexit causing a loss of European workers or an ageing workforce approaching retirement, although these have had some impact, but it is more a result of the fact that the task ahead is bigger than at any time in the last decade.
Construction is changing, new methods and materials are being introduced and technology is also having an impact on how homes are built. Embedding this knowledge across the workforce will be an important part of ensuring that the industry can continue to improve upon the quality of homes being built.
We need to build large numbers of fuel-efficient new homes and we need to build them fast, and to recruit and retain employees in the significant numbers needed to do this, the industry must communicate far more clearly to all school leavers and career-switchers about the exciting opportunities that construction can offer.
But this alone will not be enough to prevent shortages of personnel at key levels or to stop existing employees from leaving the industry. Alongside a robust apprenticeship programme that embraces diversity, employers must also provide the sort of high-quality training that is needed to develop existing staff.
At Cruden Group we believe that training should be open to everyone. With this aim in mind we have recently appointed a Learning and Development specialist, tasked with ensuring our development programmes are comprehensive, accessible across the organisation, and appropriate for the challenges that lie ahead.
We already run a full development programme, covering apprenticeships for school leavers to training opportunities for employees who have been with us for many years. This process of up-skilling helps to ensure the quality of the homes that we build, and it also builds significant levels of staff satisfaction, as evidenced by the feedback we receive from new starts.
In a recent onboarding survey 68% of new employees told us that their main motivation for joining the Company was the potential for career progression, specifically ‘You provide brilliant development, which will further my career’.
We also use training to help tackle skills shortages before they arise and at the moment, we have a high number of employees who are enjoying the opportunity to work, earn and learn at degree level.
Life-long learning benefits everyone, from staff, employers and the industry as a whole, right down to the buyers who end up with a high-quality new home.