Developing construction skills and training

Barry Neilson 2015 Well-trained employees are safer, better skilled, work faster and make fewer mistakes, CITBNI’s Barry Neilson explains. Investment will save time, help staff to take on more responsibility, and leave you more time to develop your business.

After a difficult five years, with the recession biting hard for Northern Ireland construction employers, the local economy is levelling out and we are looking forward to the future with a confident and more capable workforce able to embrace the opportunities arising as our industry regenerates.

Private housing, infrastructure and industrial work are all expected to help push the sector towards growth and around 1,280 new construction workers will be needed yearly over the next five years in Northern Ireland.

Over the last three years, CITB NI has concentrated efforts in supporting the industry survive the economic downturn. We are working with the sector to improve their capabilities in strategic planning and performance improvement at senior management level while working to develop a qualified workforce at craft level.

The second phase of our ‘Qualifying the Existing Workforce’ project was launched in September 2014 and will qualify 1,000 currently unqualified, experienced, employed construction workers to NVQ Level 2. This project is a joint initiative by the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), CITB NI, and the Joint Council for the Building & Civil Engineering Industry.

Nine assessment centres have been awarded the contract to qualify and assess the candidates across the province. There are 45 occupations available, ranging from bricklaying to wall and floor tiling and including occupations new to the project this year such as asbestos removal, hire and rental and roofing.

We have also hosted the first ever Heritage Specialist Apprenticeship Programme in Wood Occupations in Northern Ireland and 11 local construction trainees have completed the 10 day off-the-job training programme at Nutts Corner Training Centre which focused on structured practical training to tailor joinery skills to the traditional building sector.

The training was organised by CITB NI, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Heritage Apprenticeship Programme, and delivered by the Traditional Building Skills Company.

This project will provide an opportunity for craftspeople to obtain a recognised heritage qualification, widen the scope of their construction activities and make them more employable.

We support the industry with grants and training advice to help facilitate training needs and we complete local and UK-wide research to ensure we understand the training needs of the Northern Ireland construction industry so we can ensure that training is available.

We not only focus on the existing construction workforce but also the youth market who are future. We are piloting a Shared Apprentice scheme amongst industry and young people. We continuously promote construction career opportunities to the youth market through careers fairs and construction ambassadors. We host the annual NI Skillbuild competition and work closely with the local colleges to prepare apprentices to compete on a national and world stage

Skills are a key driver of growth, performance and prosperity. Our aim is to develop a qualified and competent workforce within the Northern Ireland construction industry and to help encourage and support training to ensure the right skills in the right place at the right time.

As an Industry Training Board and Sector Skills Council, our vision is to have a construction industry were skills and competence are at the core of every business plan and a training culture where skills are at the heart of each construction company, no matter how large or small, and to continue to improve the productivity of the Northern Ireland construction industry.

We are looking to the future with confidence. Since the start of the recession, construction has lost significant numbers of skilled workers and we will continue to work closely with the industry to ensure it has the right skills and qualifications needed to deliver forecasted output.

We will continue to develop new interventions and programs focusing on apprenticeships and leadership within the sector to ensure the industry has the skills to deliver and the strategic management to do so efficiently and economically. We will also address skills development in specialist areas such as heritage and sustainable construction methods in order to assist with opportunities that may arise in these sectors.

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