Construction industry working hard to beat the economic storm

14There is no doubt that the construction industry has been hit very hard by the current economic downturn.   The Construction Skills Network (CSN) predicts a slight growth in output over the UK in the next 5 years but as activity had declined significantly in Northern Ireland it will take longer to reach a full recovery.

Key projects outlined in the Draft Programme for Government and the capital investment in 18 local schools will help secure work for a range of contractors. It is significant that in 2012 some high profile construction projects such as the Titanic Signature Building, The Causeway Visitors Centre and the new South West Acute hospital in Fermanagh have been completed across the Province giving the industry a welcome economic boost. However, with new house prices falling and the number of new house sales in decline, recovery is slow and there are more and more construction businesses that have ceased trading and have not been able to ride the economic storm.

CITB-ConstructionSkills NI along with key industry partners and Government sponsors (DEL) are working together to find ways of ensuring we maintain a skilled and qualified workforce both now and for the future so that we are ready to take advantage of new investment opportunities and in the long term the economic upturn. It is promising that in a recent poll of 100 construction employers 60% had provided training in the last twelve months and whilst slightly fewer had trained staff to a nationally recognised qualification more had taken on apprentices. Whilst the main barrier to training is cost it is encouraging that despite the harsh economic conditions employers are continuing to invest in training and skills.

Training Grants

The CITB-ConstructionSkills NI Grant Scheme forms a key element of the provision for businesses and offers an economic incentive to train and have a positive impact on the industry. The variety of grants available is indicative of the diversity of the construction industry and covers key initiatives such as qualifying existing workers, improving health and safety, and training new recruits, underlining the fact that all areas of industry can be improved by investment in training.

To enhance the training routinely carried out by employers in the industry CITB-ConstructionSkills NI are  working in direct partnership with federations and industry bodies to directly fund demand led training of strategic importance to the industry. This scheme, titled ‘Tier 2’, is essentially a more proactive and flexible  way of working in partnership with the industry to react and meet the ever changing demands it faces in delivering the needs of its clients.

Since the inception of the scheme over 500 individuals have been trained in areas such as Pre Qualification Questionnaires, Sustainable Construction, Business Improvement and basic estimating from all sizes of employers throughout the industry.

This way of working takes into account the current economic climate, ensures we support the industry by working with employers, for employers and fully embraces our remit of encouraging training in the industry.  The training is demand led and the federations and industry bodies have been proactive in applying for funding to help meet the training needs of their members which in turn benefits the overall industry.

Qualifying the Exisitng Workforce

In an exciting initiative to enhance the skills of the construction industry, CITB-ConstructionSkills NI, the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL) and the Joint Council for the Building & Civil Engineering Industry are working in partnership to train 500 currently unqualified, experienced and employed construction workers to NVQ Level 2. This aims to give NI construction employers a commercial advantage through being able to offer delivery to clients through a workforce that can evidence their competence through assessed and recognised qualifications.  Speaking at the launch, Dr Stephen Farry, Minister, Employment and Learning said, “It is vital that employers and staff train through these challenging economic times and this is particularly important for construction. Through this project we will help upskill those working in this sector ensuring we have a better skilled workforce which will assist to drive this industry and our economy forward.

For more information log onto www.citbcsni.org.uk or telephone 028 9082 5466 to speak to a member of our Training Operations Support Team.

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