The new Construction Skills Network report predicts strong growth over the next five years for our industry – but can it be realised?

Construction’s comeback looks firmly on track with growth expected in every nation and region in the UK from 2016-2020.

Encouragingly, this is not just about London as Wales, the South West and the North West are all set for particularly strong growth.

The government’s commitment to accelerate housebuilding alongside the strong output anticipated in infrastructure will help to give employers confidence about the volume of work in the pipeline and allow them to plan ahead.

But with opportunities come challenges.

The report predicts that we need over 230,000 new roles to meet demand, but without the skills in place, it will be much harder to reduce costs and delivery times.

Employers will meet these needs in a variety of ways but a key element of most firms’ strategies will involve attracting and investing in people early in their careers – and for many that will mean apprenticeships.

The need to invest more in apprenticeships is underlined both by the government’s three million starts target and also by new CITB research showing widespread ambitions to grow apprenticeships.

The government’s reforms of apprenticeships and further education aim to create an approach where employers lead on setting standards, bear more of the costs for investing in apprenticeships and where providers are more responsive to their needs.

The challenge for government is to spell out quickly how this will all work and to make it as simple as possible.

This will be particularly important in construction, where two thirds of apprenticeships are delivered by small employers with fewer than 50 people.

CITB will have an important role in helping employers to work with the government’s reforms to realise their apprenticeship ambitions.

We will be consulting employers on how best to do this.

They tell us that two of the biggest barriers are management time and finding training that meets their needs.

So we will be putting a particular focus on cutting the bureaucracy involved in apprenticeships and painting a picture for providers of what their needs are.

We will also be looking at how we can use grant funding to help employers address the cost and cashflow challenges of investing in apprenticeships in this new approach.

But it isn’t just about money.

We are working with the industry to roll out the next stage of Go Construct so that it can promote both the training opportunities available and match these up with the young people seeking them.

The latest CSN report is positive about the future of our industry.

Investing in the skills to turn these predictions into reality isn’t easy, but by working together we can make it happen.

This article was originally published in Construction News