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RCI December 2017

RCI SHOW 2017 REVIEW Skills in focus at the RCI Show 2017 We joined a live debate which was chaired by James Talman, CEO of the National Federation of Roofing Contractors, to discuss skills shortages and apprenticeship schemes. James was joined by a panel which included Keith Roberts of Roberts Consulting, Andy Williamson, MD of IKO Group, and Jeremy Wright, partnerships manager at the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). A complex problem Introducing the seminar, James invited Keith Roberts to open the debate by giving the audience an overview of the problem that we are facing as an industry. Keith explained: “Roofing is becoming more complex. We have more details going into a roof than ever before. We need to think about wind load calculations, condensation risk analysis; you have to think about the structure, drainage, hydrothermal, durability and compliance with building regulations – all these are specific skills needed in the construction of a roof.” Other specialist skills needed in roof construction include specification writing, drawing preparation, design calculations, product assessment, value engineering, inspection, investigation of roof performance and quality control on site. Sound complicated? It is. “We have ourselves quite a problematic picture,” continued Keith. “We have a number of different aspects to roof design, not to mention that roof designers also need a knowledge of about 60 different British standards.” Keith ended with some questions including: what is the role of the manufacturer in the design of a roof? And who takes responsibility when a full system is not specified? Call to action Keith passed on to Andy Williamson who stated loud and clear: “This is a call to action; we have some major issues in this industry.” Issues, such as an aging workforce, the looming threat of Brexit, not enough ‘new blood’ coming into the industry, capacity problems, skilled labour shortage, reputation problems, construction not being an attractive career choice, and the Farmer Review which said that the industry has to “modernise or die”. Despite this, the construction industry is in a good position, explained Andy, it is a good place to be if you are already in it. 2.3 million people are said 032 DECEMBER 2017 RCIMAG.COM to be employed in the UK construction industry at the moment, with £119 billion currently invested and £425 billion planned investment – so as the figures show: the construction industry is an extremely exciting place to be. However, the workforce has been in a steady decline for years and 500,000 people are going to retire in the next ten years according to Andy. Collective responsibility With regards to all of the above, Andy said that “quite often, we are looking at someone else to do something about it.” Andy then turned the attention on the audience saying, “every single person in this hall needs to take responsibility for it.” IKO Group currently has 17 apprentices across all functions and Andy urged the audience to take apprentices into their own companies, connect with a local school, talk to their own children and family friends and help spread the word. Andy ended by saying: “My plea to you is to do the same. Talk to your children, talk to your friends’ children and help bring more people into the industry. We do some really great things and work in a fantastic industry and we need to shout about it.” Andy passed on to Jeremy Wright, partnerships manager for CITB. Jeremy opened his discussion with some facts: the construction industry makes up 7% of UK GDP, but we need to recruit 36,000 new people into the industry every year if we are going to plug the skills gap. “We are expecting a major exodus from construction,” cautioned Jeremy. Attracting the next generation He went on to explain what the industry and government is doing to try and attract more people, such as the government apprenticeship levy and CITB announcing higher apprenticeship grants; extra funding for new vocational T-Levels which is intended to nurture home-grown talent for industries such as construction, and the launch of the GoConstruct website, which is the industry’s career portal. On the website, there are 180 different career choices, as well as case studies, salary levels and a section where employers can post job opportunities. Jeremy said that this careers website is especially important because “without this knowledge, the young generation will go elsewhere.” All of these initiatives, brought together, are working well to attract more young people to the industry. It was explained that at this moment, most people come into the industry because their dad or family member did – not because they are attracted to it and this is the problem that we need to address. We have a fragmented industry where there is no mentoring system. Today’s generation At this point the microphone made its way into the audience to get some comments. One gentleman in the audience commented on what he referred to as the “snowflake generation” saying that “children these days do not have a chance to get their hands dirty.” He used an example that in her Design & Technology class, his daughter had made a plastic clock which unsurprisingly failed to stimulate an interest in building things. He went on to say, “we are not encouraging youngsters to come into the industry and we are not going to get people back into this industry until we make it interesting.” It was asked of the audience if anyone was going into schools to talk about construction and only one person in the audience said that she was going into schools as a construction ambassador. Another member of the audience had mentioned that she had tried to stimulate interest online with a hashtag which showcased the “many interesting buildings we have built in our country” but that unfortunately the campaign had petered out due to lack of interest. She related this back to Andy Williamson’s point about being proud of the fantastic industry that we work in and making sure other people know how great it is, but it has to be a joint and coordinated effort. Food for thought Overall it was a very interesting debate with plenty of food for thought for the attendees. In conclusion, we have a collective responsibility to save our industry and instead of looking to someone else to solve it, we should be thinking about what we ourselves are going to do to help tackle the issues in the industry. Whether that is by becoming a construction ambassador, offering to mentor someone, making the effort to go and talk to schools on careers days and inviting them to your company or making use of the apprenticeship levy for your own company, the very least you can do, is when you go home tonight tell your kids or friends’ kids about the great work that you do and the industry does. This will be a start…but there’s still more to do… We hope that you managed to attend the many interesting RIBA CPDs, seminars and presentations we had on offer at the RCI Show 2017, but if you missed out on the live debate on Day 1, RCI’s Holly Miles has provided a review of what was a particularly timely discussion on the skills crisis and attracting the next generation of roofers…


RCI December 2017
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