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Mon July 22 2024

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Employers and unions unite to tackle NI skills shortage

7 Jul 23 Employers and employee representatives in Northern Ireland have published a manifesto for boosting construction skills in the region.

The Construction Employers Federation, together with the Unite and GMB Unions Industry Futures, formed a company called Construction Industry Futures which commissioned professional services company EY to review the local construction market and bring forward a series of recommendations for talent intervention.

Construction Industry Futures has now published the Skills Review which identifies what it considers the six most effective interventions for boosting Northern Ireland’s construction skills. They are:

  • To establish a Construction Skills Forum between education, government and industry, and sponsored by an independent organisation, to meet regularly to address key industry issues with  a focus on skills;
  • A review of the apprenticeship delivery model and ensure that apprenticeships are delivered in the most appropriate and beneficial way;
  • Skills alignment through more effective engagement by and with educators, including private training providers, to achieve alignment to the necessary on-site skills through effective skills gap analysis, future planning, and more flexible learning opportunities;
  • To review pay and rewards packages within the industry and promote Northern Ireland as an attractive employment market to local employees;
  • To encourage technical skills development and minimise the impact of trades shortages by ensuring technical skills training is widely available for all.
  • To partner with primary and secondary schools to boost the awareness of construction as an attractive career path through the improved targeting of students, provision of career advice.

Commenting on the Skills Review, Mark Spence, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation said: “As with every other sector of our economy, the construction industry is facing a time of great change. Key drivers such as the green economy and net zero as well as the increasing roles for digitisation, AI and software development in construction and manufacturing processes mean that we cannot afford to stand still. 
“However, in moving to proactively deal with these changes and make the most out of the opportunities they represent, the single biggest threat we currently have is an acute shortage of new skills and talent entering the construction industry.
“Working together with our partners in the trade union movement, we passionately believe that while the outcomes of this Skills Review are deliverable, we equally believe that the only way we can make meaningful progress is by embedding a culture of partnership working that we have seldom seen in recent decades. That is why the first intervention – the establishment of a Construction Skills Forum – is absolutely vital. 
“It is unquestionable that there are already a number of organisations – such as Women’s Tec – taking major strides to addressing our skills shortage. However, what the current approach lacks, and desperately needs, is a more collaborative approach between the sector, trade unions, CITB, further and higher education, Department for the Economy and private training providers. The Construction Skills Forum would, in our model, be responsible for deciding priorities, aligning current activities and driving the skills-related strategic agenda for the construction sector.
“Once in place, it would then drive forward the other five key interventions that our report has laid out through a variety of sub-groups which would bring together those at the heart of our sector, underpinning this work with further data gathering and research to ensure that we are in the best position we possibly can be to flourish into the future. This structure, sitting as a core element reporting to the already established DfE Skills Council, can then act as the driver for change which we have long needed”.

Related Information

The Industry Skills Review is available to download here


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