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A OnePoll survey commissioned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that while reception of the apprenticeship levy looks positive, findings indicate concern for the more immediate pipeline of skilled workers in the construction industry.

Findings in brief

  • 42% of construction workers feel more confidence for the growing talent pool as a result of apprenticeship levy
  • 43% have felt a positive impact from apprenticeship levy
  • However, there are still concerns over skills available in UK as 56% think Government and construction workers should help skilled workers from abroad remain post-Brexit
  • 86% of construction workers agree that businesses should focus on skills and abilities for new hires

Is the levy working?

Though the apprenticeship levy only came into force in April 2017, indicators show that it has been well received so far. 43% of construction workers have noticed a positive impact and 42% say that they feel more confident in the growing talent pool as a result of the levy.

Since the introduction of the Levy, a third (36%) have noticed an increase in the number of apprentices employed, and 30% have also seen an increase in the number of apprenticeship applicants, although 15% said they now have more paperwork to fill in. And it would seem those in the south of England are the most positive about the levy, with more than the national average reporting positive impact. This rose to almost two thirds (63%) of construction workers in London and over half (52%) in the South West.
Are apprenticeships enough?

However, while the long-term talent pipeline outlook looks promising, there are concerns over home-grown talent being able to fulfil the demand for skills needed in the construction industry in the shorter term. Output in the construction market is expected to grow over the next 12 months, yet 53% of construction workers say that labour shortages are an issue for business.

With a predicted 8% of the UK’s construction workforce made up of European nationals[2], over half (56%) of construction workers across all levels feel that construction companies and Government should work together to ensure skilled workers in the sector can remain in the UK. This rises to over two thirds (66%) in London and is most keenly felt among senior and middle managers in construction (71% and 67%, respectively).

An RICS report found that 30% of construction professionals said that hiring non-UK workers was important to the success of their businesses. And this shows when it comes to priorities for hiring within the industry.

Barry Cullen, RICS Future Talent Director said “It is great to see such a positive reaction to the apprenticeship levy from the industry so early on and RICS is working with members and employers on schools programmes, to engage and inspire more young people into surveying, to fill a more diverse pipeline of talent. Encouraging the next generation and ensuring there is fresh and skilled talent to meet the demands of the future is vital to any industry’s success, and it’s clear that the construction industry is united in this belief.

“However, with Britain set to leave the European market we must ensure that we are not left in a skills vacuum. An estimated 176,000 EU citizens are employed in the construction business, so it is vital that government and businesses work together to ensure they are able to remain or risk leaving the industry short of the people they need.”

Saint-Gobain Weber takes training in the specification and application of their innovative, market leading materials responsibly. A team of technical advisers are available to support and advise, either over the telephone or on site, on the correct use of a diverse product offering.

“In addition to the Saint-Gobain Technical Academy here in Bedfordshire, one of several across the country,” says Rob Speke, training academy manager, Saint-Gobain Weber, “we now have a wide inventory of How To videos posted on You Tube for specifiers and applicators who are unable to attend a related course at the Academy.”

How To Videos have been created to address the most frequently raised technical enquiries received by Weber’s technicians for tile preparation, flooring products, renders and external wall insulation systems.

A popular and frequently viewed Weber video identifies the benefits and characteristics of weberpral monocouche renders. This is a high performance range of low maintenance, cementitious, through-coloured renders in which small knocks and abrasions are not as noticeable as with traditional painted render. But if a fine crack appears, caused by drying shrinkage, aesthetic repairs can be easily carried out.

“With over 3,000 views this video is designed to help render applicators ensure that perfect aesthetics are easily achieved when dealing with fine cracks in monocouche render,” says Rob Speke. “By following a few simple stages – from opening the crack, to accurately preparing the render repair mix, achieving the correct application technique and the final finishing treatment – a perfect and satisfactory remedial job will be delivered.”

This How To video is one of 30 currently hosted on YouTube with plans for many more over the coming months. For more information, or for technical support, please contact Saint-Gobain Weber on 08703 330 070, or visit www.netweber.co.uk.

A free download of the Weber App for iPhone and iPad users is also available from iTunes and from Google Play for Android smartphones and tablet users. Follow Saint-Gobain Weber on Twitter @SGWeberUK for the latest company news and updates.

A lack of focus on bolstering the workforce could push construction firms out of business, according to industry experts One Way.

An analysis by the specialist rail and construction recruitment consultancy found that firms are recruiting on a short term basis and are therefore forced to pay day rates that are well above the standard rate. Insolvency specialists, Begbies Traynor, recently published its latest ‘Red Flag’ report which found that over 40,000 construction companies were operating in a state of ‘significant’ financial distress at the end of June. A year ago the number stood at 33,222.

Paul Payne, managing director of One Way, said “Far too many construction firms don’t have a plan in place for finding skills when they need them on a short term basis and are forced into a situation where they have to pay excessively high day rates just to get the staff they need. You can see why they do it, but by planning ahead, firms can source the best skills in the market, at a fairer price and avoid any unnecessary headaches. This doesn’t just make their lives easier when it comes to staffing projects, but also removes some of the excessive costs. When construction firms look to become more efficient they often analyse their raw materials suppliers, however those savings are relatively small in comparison to those that could potentially be saved by developing robust talent pipelines into the industry. These statistics highlight that firms are being pushed to the brink and planning effectively and concentrating on recruitment could help to significantly lower costs.”

“The main issue preventing them from building these routes into the field is that there simply aren’t enough people in the industry and very few firms are doing anything about it. That means there’s a limited supply of skills in the market and the individuals in demand can essentially name their price as they’re so highly sought after. By building talent pipelines and communities you can avoid these additional costs as you’ll have a pool of available talent to fall back on if required. The skills shortages are only going to get worse once we leave the European Union, so it’s crucial that firms start planning before it’s too late. We’ve launched two campaigns to boost the number of women and youngsters entering the construction industry respectively. However initiatives like this are few and far between and we need to see more proactive work taking place, otherwise staffing costs will continue to rise and firms could ultimately be forced out of business.”

Saint-Gobain Weber takes training in the specification and application of their innovative, market leading materials responsibly. A team of technical advisors is available to support and advise, either over the telephone or on site, on the correct use of a diverse product offering.

“In addition to the Saint-Gobain Technical Academy here in Bedfordshire, one of several across the country,” says Rob Speke, training academy manager, Saint-Gobain Weber. “We now have a wide inventory of How To videos posted on YouTube for specifiers and applicators who are unable to attend a related course at the Academy.”

How To videos have been created to address the most frequently raised technical enquiries received by Weber’s technicians for tile preparation, flooring products, renders and external wall insulation systems.

Watch the video here.

A popular and frequently viewed Weber video identifies the many benefits of the weberfloor 4310 fibre flow floor screed. This fibre-modified material is formulated from special cements, aggregates, supplementary binders and chemical admixtures. Designed for quick, efficient and effective pump application weberfloor 4310 fibre flow has excellent spreading and smoothing characteristics. It is supplied as a pre-blended dry powder and only requires the addition of clean water on site.

“The versatile weberfloor 4310 fibre flow screed is designed for covering a variety of substrates including tiled, carpeted, flexible floor coverings and even parquet flooring,” says Rob Speke. “One of its greatest attributes is that it can be applied at thicknesses between 5 – 50mm in comparison with 100mm of a traditional concrete screed. It is also ready for covering after 1 – 3 weeks in comparison with a concrete equivalent which takes 5 – 7 weeks.”

Manufactured under BSI Quality Assurance Scheme ISO 9001, weberfloor 4310 fibre flow can be used in domestic and commercial applications. It has low alkalinity, is low in emissions and is casein-free.

This How To video is one of 30 currently hosted on YouTube with plans for many more over the coming months. For more information, or for technical support, please contact Saint-Gobain Weber on 08703 9335 2999, or visit www.netweber.co.uk. Customers in Ireland should call 028 9335 2999 or visit www.weber.ie.

A free download of the new weber.app for iPhone and iPad users is also available from iTunes and from Google Play for Android smartphones and tablet users. Follow Saint-Gobain Weber on Twitter @SGWeberUK for the latest company news and updates and look out for more introductions of new How To videos.

Huddersfield-based energy efficiency roofing specialist, Ploughcroft, has issued a stark warning to construction colleges across the region: upskill and evolve, or risk being left behind in the fast-moving roofing industry.

With hundreds of students leaving construction colleges to seek employment this summer, Chris Hopkins, Divisional Director at Ploughcroft, is warning the majority of those leavers will be untrained and unprepared for the energy saving construction techniques that consumers now demand.

An industry first

As a consequence, Ploughcroft has taken the initiative to develop its own pioneering, Eco-Roof apprenticeship scheme – which has already been trailed over the last 12-months. This is believed to be an industry first.

This proactive approach from Ploughcroft is essential to provide apprentices with the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the fast-growing energy efficiency industry, and to underpin the cost-effective installation of new roofing schemes.

While under the current college curriculum, the focus quite rightly covers the basic roofing installation essentials, it fails in the view of Chris Hopkins, when it comes to the incorporation of now crucial energy efficient-related skill sets, such as U-Value calculations, condensation risk analysis and heat-loss monthly savings.

This means forward-thinking companies such as Ploughcroft, which lead the way with its unique Eco-Roof product, are unable to find suitably qualified staff, even at entry-level positions, further exacerbating the industry-wide skills shortage. Ploughcroft believes that by ‘future proofing’ the Apprenticeship schemes, this will also have the knock-on effect of attracting the brightest and best to the industry.

Chris Hopkins is now calling for urgent dialogue with course and curriculum planners to collaborate to address this key area. He said “Over the past three years we have seen a rapid growth in our Eco-Roof business, as energy prices continue to rise, and customers become increasingly clued-up when it comes to greener living and the impact it can have on their energy bills.

“However, while consumer demand rises, colleges simply aren’t keeping up. Given there was no existing eco roof apprenticeship scheme in place that covered the type of specialist work we carry out, we’ve been trialing and created our own using my professional teaching and roofing assessor qualifications.

“That said, we can only do so much, and today’s apprentices are the people who will drive the energy efficiency industry forward in years to come. As such it is absolutely essential that colleges – and other construction businesses – continue to evolve, and invest in skills and development.”

One of Ploughcroft’s most successful apprentices is 18-year-old Charlie Oakes, who began his apprenticeship in 2015 when the scheme launched. He says: “Joining the Eco-Roof apprenticeship has been a fantastic experience. Roofing is often seen as industry that lacks innovation, but working at Ploughcroft I’ve found that’s not the case, and I’ve learned a great deal about emerging energy efficiency techniques. This is a huge growth area, and one I’m excited to see developing.”

Ploughcroft’s two-year Eco-Roof apprenticeship offers a mix of on-the-job training and classroom-based learning spanning traditional roofing, as well as a wide range of cutting-edge, energy-efficient construction techniques required to meet the needs of this fast-growing eco-construction sector. It is currently seeking graduates to join its Eco-Roof apprenticeship scheme.

To find out more, visit www.ploughcroft.co.uk.

Aico Ltd., the market leader in residential Fire and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms in the UK, has expanded and enhanced its training and support services for customers. This includes two new Mobile Training & Demonstration Units plus an extended Centre of Excellence at Aico’s premises in Oswestry, Shropshire.

Aico’s new fully fitted Mobile Training & Demonstration vehicles enable the company to deliver detailed product and alarm technology information, plus its CPD accredited Expert Installer training, right to customers’ very doors.

Information boards on all Aico technologies, such as RadioLINK+ and AudioLINK, and alarm ranges – with fully functional product attached – are installed within the units, along with a virtual tour of the company’s manufacturing process in Shannon, Ireland.

The internal layout is highly flexible and can be configured to meet different requirements, be it a hands on training session with Aico alarms and technologies, a product demonstration, or working on bespoke specification projects.

In addition to the new Mobile Training & Demonstration Units, Aico also provides training, product demonstrations and much more at its Centre of Excellence, in Oswestry, Shropshire. Opened to great acclaim in 2015 as part of Aico’s 25th anniversary celebrations, the Centre has been expanded to twice its size to meet the demand for its use.

The new extension, officially opened at a launch Event in January, houses a dedicated training facility, with a large Conference Room which seats up to 150 people and is kitted out with the latest Audio Visual facilities. The Workshop allows for 20 people to comfortably attend a hands on training session and view alarms in action with the use of a smoke chamber. A new wholesaler area, with its imitation trade counter, has been set up to look familiar to wholesalers whilst showing the latest product and merchandise available to them.

The existing facilities at the Centre of Excellence remain, including ‘Ember Place’, which emulates a furnished home with typical room layouts including a lounge, kitchen and bedroom, with suitable Aico alarms and accessories fitted. In addition, there is a large modern meeting room which can accommodate up to 40 people; break out areas with seating and desks; and a Heritage and Manufacturing Area featuring a virtual tour of the Ei factory in Ireland.

A wholly owned subsidiary of Ei Electronics, Aico is the market leader in residential Fire and CO protection in the UK. All alarms are designed and built in Ireland specifically to meet the UK standards and regulations. With more mains powered domestic smoke alarms installed in UK social housing than any other manufacturer, Aico is tried, tested and trusted.

For more information please go to www.aico.co.uk or contact Aico on 01691 664100 or enquiries@aico.co.uk.

Britain’s beloved historic buildings are at risk, due to a restoration skills crisis that threatens the future of some of our best-known national treasures, warns a RICS and YouGov survey.

  • 9 in 10 British people identify historic buildings, like those featured in Channel 4’s Great British Buildings – Restoration of the Year* as important symbols of national heritage.
  • 89% of the British public believe it’s important to preserve these national treasures and 42% said the responsibility to invest and maintain these structures lies with the government.
  • However, despite the public’s passion for historic buildings, the majority don’t understand the specialist skills needed to preserve them, at a time when the entire construction industry is facing a skills shortage.

Restoration of the Year

Despite over a million people tuning in to Channel 4’s latest series Great British Buildings – Restoration of the Year, and a new YouGov survey commissioned by RICS finding that 91% of the British public believe historic buildings are symbolic of Britain’s heritage, young people have little awareness of the specialist professions and trades essential to their preservation, suggesting that as people retire, the current skills base could be all but wiped out.

Preserving iconic treasures

According to the survey, 9 in 10 people (91%) agreed that buildings such as Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace are symbols of the country’s heritage. This sentiment is strong across all age groups, including millennials, with 89% of 18-24 year-olds appreciating the importance of historic buildings.

The vast majority of the population (89%) also believe that that these iconic treasures should be preserved for future generations and place the responsibility for maintaining them firmly at the door of the government (42%), followed by industry organisations (16%) and the general public (14%).

Appreciation for historic buildings is particularly strong in West Midlands, with almost two thirds (65%) saying that it’s ‘very important’ such buildings are preserved, while around 2 in 5 respondents (42%) from Scotland say the same.

Skills shortage

However, despite the public’s love for these buildings, the majority don’t understand the specialist skills needed to restore and preserve them. For example, 83% are not knowledgeable about what a historic building surveyor does, and 80% do not know what a roof thatcher’s job entails. Awareness of age-old building professions is fading away amongst the younger generation, with only 1 in 10 18-24 year-olds able to describe the job of a stonemason, and only 16% know what a glass blower does.

This lack of awareness comes at a time when the industry as a whole is facing a skills shortage in the built environment, with the latest figures from the RICS Construction Market Survey showing that the skills gap reported by professionals across the construction sector increased from 2% in 2012 to 43% in 2016.

A pipeline of talent

To ensure that these crucial skills are not lost and cherished historic buildings don’t fall into disrepair, a stronger pipeline of talent is needed. It’s important that craft skills are developed in addition to the continual promotion of professional skills, as the two skillsets are intrinsically linked to create any successful construction project.

RICS is calling on the government and industry bodies to continue to concentrate their efforts on inspiring young people to pursue a career in the sector and educate them on the importance of mastering and maintaining the skills needed to preserve our historic buildings.

Kevin McCloud, British designer and presenter said “Historically listed buildings form part of the fabric of our rich cultural heritage and today’s findings from RICS highlight that so many Brits are genuinely passionate about protecting the physical legacy that these buildings represent. I’m very pleased to be hosting Channel 4’s Restoration of the Year programme, which shines a spotlight on the care and craftsmanship behind preserving these national treasures.”

Matthew Howell, RICS Managing Director for UK & Ireland added “It’s fantastic to see that so many people care about our historic buildings, especially young people. However, without a pipeline of talent developing expertise in these specialist areas, these landmarks could be left in ruin. We need the next generation to understand the role of a historic building surveyor, and the craft of a stonemason or glassblower to preserve this heritage for the future.

“The government and industry bodies must continue to work together and raise awareness of the wide-range of opportunities available in the industry and create more routes into the sector for young people, including investing in quality apprenticeships that lead to roles such as qualified building surveyors who specialise in conservation projects.”

As the drive to build more new homes in Britain gathers pace, the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) has launched two new courses in April aimed at those developing the brownfield sites that will play a significant role in solving the housing crisis: Asbestos in Soils Awareness and Asbestos in Soils.

The UK is short of housing and with three million new homes needed by 2030, Prime Minister Theresa May has targeted building a million homes by 2020. Greenfield building is mired in controversy, so the key will be brownfield redevelopment and asbestos in soils training will be an essential requirement.

“A million homes is a tall order and those tasked with the development of sites with former industrial use are going to need awareness of asbestos in soils, which these major new courses aim to address,” said UKATA General Manager Craig Evans. “Architects and other such professionals may require the more developed course, but the core syllabus of each will be of great use to all involved in brownfield projects.”

The white paper, Fixing our broken housing market published on 7 February set out government plans to boost new home supply and received a mixed response. Despite calls to give the greenlight to greenbelt building, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed restrictions on greenbelt building would remain; leaving brownfield central to government plans – and that is going to need specialist training.

Training courses

Asbestos in Soils Awareness is for those working on brownfield sites. The course will assist employers in meeting legal obligations; highlighting how to avoid risks from Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) in soil: in both planned work and emergencies. Providing the theoretical skills to undertake work on sites with ACMs; Asbestos in Soils delivers an understanding of actions that must be taken in the event notifiable and/or non-notifiable ACMs are identified and explains the emergency procedures to be implemented in the event of on-site ACM in soils.

“Developers claim brownfield alone can’t solve the housing crisis, but the government position means asbestos in soils courses are a necessity,” added Craig. “Personnel need asbestos in soils awareness to undertake their roles safely, coupled with an understanding of the key asbestos regulations and how they fit the broader context of health and safety legislation.

Those successfully completing these courses will have awareness of the nature and properties of asbestos in soils, its effects on health and know how to avoid the risks from soils and made ground containing ACMs and how to work and stay safe.”

Anyone interested in the new course should contact UKATA direct for a list of training providers.

Tasked by the HSE in 2008 for taking-on, managing and developing the list of training providers for licensed asbestos work in the UK, UKATA is now the leading authority in all levels of asbestos training in the UK. For further information on UKATA, visit www.ukata.org.uk.

As a business committed to driving education within the industry, Xpelair is offering two levels of learning – designed to help customers to stay ahead of the game when it comes to modern ventilation and the opportunity it presents.

Installers and contractors seeking to develop their skillset can now benefit from three different BPEC courses, all of which conform to the new Summit Skills syllabus for ventilation and are certified by the independent training organisation (BPEC). Through both theoretical and practical training, attendees can learn about the main types of domestic ventilation systems and how to install them safely and efficiently, then test them afterwards. On completion of the BPEC training, installers are certified to install all four ventilation systems for five years – including mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR).

In addition, Xpelair is also offering a free, industry-approved CPD seminar which covers the principles of heat recovery, meeting Passive House standards and best practice for domestic heat recovery – ideal for those seeking to gain a basic understanding of the MVHR opportunity within a limited time frame.

The BPEC course is housed within Xpelair’s purpose-built state-of-the-art training facility in Peterborough, whilst the CPD seminars are delivered across the UK. Both courses are run by the business’ team of ventilation experts who provide support and guidance to attendees beyond the four walls of the classroom.

Lee Stones, Category Manager for Xpelair, said: “As one of the UK’s leading manufacturers and developers in ventilation systems, we feel it’s only right that we share our expert knowledge with the industry and our customers.

“As we all know, the ventilation category has changed drastically in recent years; amid legislation reforms, the rise of the green agenda and a shift towards MVHR systems – which many installers still have had little to know experience of.

“As such, we’ve developed these courses specifically to cut through the confusion, helping them to stay fully up to date with industry changes and best practice in developing new systems, such as MVHR. We’d encourage all customers to take advantage of this opportunity to ensure they have the right skillset to meet future demand and grow their business.”

For any enquiries regarding Xpelair’s BPEC training courses and CPD seminar please email designs@redringxpelair.com or visit www.xpelair.co.uk.

The UK government’s energy policy requires suppliers to install smart meters in the homes of all domestic customers and small businesses by the end of 2020. But with less than four years to go, more than 48 million meters have yet to be installed.

To achieve the target, installation rates must increase fivefold from the current 200,000 a month to more than one million a month, but the industry has to address a drastic shortage of skilled installers, warns specialist training provider Develop Training Limited (DTL) in a new report.

Fundamental to meeting the deadline will be the availability of qualified meter installers, but the sector is already experiencing a chronic skills shortage. So fast, effective and accredited training programmes and initiatives are vital if suppliers are to boost installer numbers to meet their obligations and avoid penalties, says the DTL report.

DTL’s new whitepaper, ‘Smart Meters: training to meet the challenge of the UK rollout’, explores the issues relating to the UK smart meter rollout and the role training must play in helping to address them.

The report highlights that the shortage of suitably trained engineers is by far the biggest challenge facing an industry under pressure to meet the smart meter target. Research has shown that almost one in five domestic customers who arranged for a smart meter to be installed in their home experienced long delays because there were too few engineers available to carry out the work.

Steve Braund, Marketing Manager at DTL, explains: “Smart meters are an integral part of the UK’s plans to create a greener, safer and more reliable energy network, but the rollout programme is placing severe demands on the energy firms and their supply chain. Faced with the need to meet Government targets, industry must take urgent action to address the skills gaps of existing engineers and, more importantly, increase the number of qualified smart meter installers.

“Our smart meter report is the latest in a series of whitepapers DTL has published on a variety of topics, including electrical safety at work, confined spaces and legionella – all of which are freely available to download from our website.”

To download a free copy of the whitepaper, please click here.

DTL can provide specialist training at any one of its seven training bases nationwide, and can also deliver on-site solutions. Visit www.developtraining.co.uk for more information.