Skills for the future report

Future proofing the construction industry: Building skills for the next generation

Almost without exception, every sector of the industry is struggling to recruit good talent and young people which we are seeing across all sizes of employer and all sectors of the industry, writes Chief Executive of CITB NI Barry Neilson.

Despite the construction industry experiencing good levels of growth, the industry faces a range of ongoing and emerging challenges: an ageing workforce; declining numbers of new talent entering the industry; technological advances in IT; the drive for energy efficiency; and a net zero carbon society.

No single organisation, government department, or educational institution can deliver the change or support needed to build a secure construction workforce for the future. However, we can combine to take discrete but significant steps to influence the long-term stability and competence of the workforce.

It is essential that we start to re-think how we attract new entrants into the construction industry and look at equality, diversity and inclusivity in its true form and seek talent from all sources incorporating other sectors and making the industry even more accessible for those with disabilities.

At CITB NI, we have been working with industry employers and federations through the Department for the Economy’s Built Environment Sectoral Partnership (BESP) to review and refresh the apprenticeship frameworks, engaging directly with employers.

We are also working with the Green Skills Delivery Group, which has been tasked by the Northern Ireland Skills Council to develop proposals on how to meet the skills challenges, not only within the construction sector, but also the energy generation and infrastructure sectors which are inextricably linked. The first outcome of this work is a partnership with the NIE Networks and other utilities providers to develop a new entry level programme for long-term infrastructure needs.

In terms of widening the potential entry routes to construction, CITB NI have been working with Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO) to develop interventions that encourage progression from the justice system into the construction sector, providing benefits for the individual, the economy and our industry. This has led to the development of virtual and augmented reality interventions that, now tested, can be developed and used in other areas such as careers information and taster sessions.

Through our ‘Build Your Career – a Future in Construction’ programme for schools and students we have been delivering construction ‘bootcamps’ for schools on our inhouse simulated site to provide meaningful experiences to those who have not yet decided on their career path. This has been trialled with the support and feedback of our School Teachers Forum who deliver GCSE in construction, which CITB NI supports through the development and provision of the course textbooks to participating schools. This initiative has the potential to be replicated across the province as a collaboration with construction companies, local partners and councils.

Our ongoing ‘Adopt A School Programme’ provides opportunities for construction companies to build relations with post primary schools, in their local area of work, and we work with a team of careers ambassadors programme to help promote construction careers in schools, careers fairs and conferences.

Partnerships with W5 and Cool FM help to provide interactive job sampling onsite for year 10 and 12 pupils from across Northern Ireland as well as link in with younger people highlighting pathways into apprenticeships and promoting apprenticeship employer opportunities.

CITB NI in partnership with CITB GB also deliver the annual SkillBuild NI Regional Competition, which showcases some of the brightest talent in construction and gives them a pathway for competitions on a national and international level.

There is still much to do in joining up the various initiatives that support individuals in their progression into and throughout a career within the industry. As demands on infrastructure and energy efficiency rise, we must upskill existing workers and prepare new entrants for future challenges, both known and unknown.

Nutts Corner Training Centre
17 Dundrod Road
Crumlin, Co Antrim, BT29 4SR
T: 028 9082 5466

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