UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has published the initial findings of its UK Futures Programme (UKFP) study of offsite construction *.
The first briefing paper is an evaluation of the five pilot projects that UKCES has invested in. These projects were led by BuildOffSite, Skanska, Edinburgh Napier University, Laing O’Rourke, and the Steel Construction Institute.
According to UKCES, the projects demonstrate a need for industry leadership to capitalise on the opportunities afforded by the industrialisation of the sector.
“Collaboration has been shown to be vital to building the skills needed for growth and the topic of skills has brought competing businesses together to address their common need,” it says. “Competitors can become collaborators where there is a commonly experienced challenge which can be better tackled together and where there is a foundation of strong individual or group relationships which can be built upon.”
It also says that “educators and businesses must work more closely together to ensure educational institutions and professionals keep up with technological advancements and ensure innovation can be capitalised upon”.
On collaboration, Skanska director of innovation Rob Francis said: “This challenge allowed us to look at something in a completely different way, and to take it forward together.”
UKCES assistant director Carol Stanfield said: “The challenge has supported businesses in the off-site construction sector to tackle specific issues prompted by technological developments. However, much of the learning that we gathered from these projects, about collaboration and sharing best practice, is applicable to any sector facing similar technological change – something that is currently affecting almost the entire economy.”
Areas addressed through the five projects included management skills, operational skills and developing contextual understanding of the offsite construction sector. Specifically, these projects are:
- Created an employer-led Offsite Management School with more than 200 member companies and almost 300 individual learners.
- Developed a live site scenario for training allowing changes to be implemented in real time, cutting delays, improving ways of working and reducing waste.
Steel Construction Institute
- Consulted with more than 75 companies to develop and test online learning and training resources.
Edinburgh Napier University
- Created an ‘Offsite Construction Hub’ to define and showcase skill requirements and encourage collaboration between professions.
- Expanded an online comparison tool to evaluate onsite and offsite solutions at the early development stage; encouraging employers, surveyors, architects and engineers to consider offsite alternatives before committing to design solutions.