October 19, 2020

MPs throw their support behind game-changing construction qualification

ISG and its partner, WJEC, have taken a major step in tackling the looming skills and recruitment crisis facing the construction industry, with the House of Commons launch of the UK’s first Level 3 Applied Diploma in Professional Construction Practice (PCP).

This academic course is aimed at high-achieving students, who would normally focus on core STEM subjects, and has the dual purpose of transforming outdated perceptions of the industry and better preparing young people for progression into Level 4 built environment qualifications and beyond.

The PCP qualification is worth up to 56 UCAS points (the equivalent of an A-Level), and provides a contemporary insight into modern construction management practices, encompassing the technologies, behaviours and innovation that support the delivery of world-class and iconic buildings.

Teaching modules include an introduction to Building Information Modelling (BIM), the use of drones, laser scanning technology, and AI and VR in the built environment, providing young people with a realistic insight into a world beyond the construction site itself; revealing the wide-ranging roles and functions that work collaboratively to positively transform our environment. The technological focus of the course is a deliberate response to broaden the appeal of construction to engage both female and ethnically diverse audiences, who make up just 14 per cent and six percent respectively of the current workforce.

Following the long-awaited publication of the government’s Construction Sector Deal in July, the importance of ‘People’ as one of the five foundations of productivity was a central theme of how the industry can transform itself for the future. The report acknowledged the stark recruitment and skills gap the industry is facing, with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) estimating that the sector needs to recruit and train 158,000 workers between 2018 and 2022, or 31,600 annually – simply to keep up with current levels of demand, which are also rising year on year.

The construction industry has been grappling with these issues for decades and the report noted that most initiatives have ‘largely been run in isolation’, without a ‘coordinated approach to promoting construction careers’. In 2017, ISG took a leadership role to drive a transformational change in the way the industry promotes itself to young people, in coordination with a forward-thinking education provider, to develop the UK’s first Level 3 diploma in PCP, which has today been formally launched with the support of leading MPs and a range of schools, colleges, further and higher education institutions.

Today’s launch signifies the construction industry’s response to the challenge that it isn’t doing enough to help itself bridge the recruitment and skills gap holding back this £370 billion turnover industry, that employs nearly one in ten working people in the UK. ISG believes the PCP qualification, will help to change the conversation around construction for educators, parents and pupils – providing an earlier gateway into the profession for a large number of students who might never have considered a career in the built environment.

Paul Cossell, ISG’s CEO, commented: “The skills and expertise of the UK’s built environment professionals have never been in higher demand around the world. The problem we have as an industry is that a third of our workforce is now over 50 years old and we are not doing enough to educate and expose young people to the amazing opportunities that exist in this vitally important industry that delivers the infrastructure, hospitals, schools and homes that support our very existence.

“The PCP qualification is our response to engaging the brightest and most talented young people at an earlier age, with a Level 3 qualification that can sit alongside and complement existing STEM subjects. Students are given the confidence to explore contemporary construction practice and earn transferable UCAS points, which is an essential element as this unlocks the barriers that some may feel towards specialisation at an early age. This is the real game-changer – a qualification that accurately reflects our industry, but doesn’t negatively penalise those who are interested but ultimately find that it is not for them in the long term.”

Neath Port Talbot College (NPTC) Group of Colleges is the PCP diploma’s first partner and sponsor, and over the course of the 2018 academic year will be working closely with ISG in preparation to deliver the PCP qualification to its first cohort of students in the September 2019 intake. ISG has committed to placing real construction professionals in the classroom to help deliver the course, and is working to upskill tutors and bring real life projects to learners – using the very latest technologies to see beyond the traditional site visit experience.

Allan Perry, subjects office, WJEC added: “The genuinely exciting prospect about the PCP qualification is that we have a fully formed and Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) endorsed course that is ready to make a real difference now. ISG has always been clear from day one that it sees PCP as an industry initiative, and the hope is that as the qualification’s popularity grows, the wider industry throws its considerable weight behind the diploma to support the change that our sector so desperately needs.

“The government’s Construction Sector Deal calls for greater gender and ethnic diversity in the industry if we are to deliver on the £600 billion infrastructure pipeline alone. We firmly believe that we can only achieve these targets by re-setting the perception of what construction actually is. The PCP qualification is one of our best chances to engage those talented young people who haven’t made the natural link between STEM subjects and the built environment.”

Rosalind Thorpe, the CIOB’s head of education, said: “The CIOB is delighted to support the new Diploma in Professional Construction Practice. This qualification will help attract much needed new talent into the industry, which is currently experiencing skills gaps. The CIOB believes that attracting school leavers into construction will be key to increasing the use of digital technologies and innovations in the industry and improving productivity.”