As many working across the construction sector will appreciate, embarking on your first professional role can feel daunting, with years of both practical and classroom-based education finally being put to the test. Here, Andy Day, estimating, take off & surveying software consultant at Access ConQuest, discusses the importance of offering bright new talent the best possible education in order to future proof the industry, help close the skills gap and better prepare them for the world of work.
The current situation
The UK’s construction skills gap isn’t a new problem and, following the financial crisis of 2008, we saw graduate and apprenticeship programmes cut, as well as many skilled tradespeople opting to leave the industry in pursuit of a more stable income. As a direct result the market is now experiencing a shortage of workers with between five and eight years of professional experience, otherwise known as ‘young talent’.
Given that the construction industry is one of the leading drivers of the British economy, employing nearly 3m professionals in the UK and contributing considerably to the UK’s total output, it’s important this problem is addressed with new measures put in place to ensure capable young talent continues to emerge.
As we look ahead to next year, this need is only set to increase with a number of large scale developments and infrastructure projects announced by the Government in an attempt to revitalise the struggling economy.
According to the Federation of Master Builders State of the Trade Survey, 42% of small to medium-sized (SME) construction firms are actually forecasting higher workloads and 50% are reporting a higher level of enquiries.
What needs to be done
Unlike other sectors, such as manufacturing, that have been using digital systems for a number of years now, the digital revolution within the construction industry is a relatively new phenomenon and has forced many firms to reconsider processes and the criteria new recruits must meet.
Firms are now looking for digitally-savvy individuals, with a good working knowledge of connected equipment and software to enhance productivity and help make better use of resources. One new initiative that’s already showing signs of success is the new T Level qualification.
Launched in September 2020, T Levels are new study programmes which follow GCSEs and are equivalent to three A levels. These two-year study programmes involve a split of 80% of time spent in college and 20% on an industrial placement. Having been developed in collaboration with employers, the aim is to equip students with many of the digital skills required in everyday roles.
Derby College, for example, have partnered with Access ConQuest to ensure their students are well prepared for the roles of the future. By using software that is used day-in, day-out across the construction industry – particularly when calculating estimates, take-offs and measurements and bills, the students can develop a good working knowledge of a system that’s now an increasingly important aspect of estimating and commercial roles.
Why is this important?
The ability to accurately estimate the work you propose to carry out is likely to gain precedence over the coming months, with businesses fighting shrinking margins with far less room for error. Failing to accurately calculate the true cost of a new project can have a detrimental impact on your figures, business performance and reputation long-term.
As the students at Derby College will learn, by removing many of the manual processes, estimators can price more projects, compare more quotes and get sub-contractor prices quickly, allowing firms to identify the most profitable opportunities from the start, working smart to maximise productivity and ultimately, driving additional revenue.
Equally as important is the ability to be able to deliver a project on budget, in the agreed timeframe. Technology is playing a leading role in this, with employers actively seeking out digitally capable recruits to help drive the industry forward and bridge the skills gap.
For some, the pressure of 2020 has forced diversification, potentially tendering for new types of contracts for the first time. In order to successfully adapt, contractors are becoming increasingly reliant on their estimators to ensure the projects are commercially viable, again emphasising the key role technology can play.
The ConQuest software is used widely by a range of firms specialising in fit outs and refurbishments, building, civil engineering, quantity surveying, as well as subcontractors – so whatever career path these students decide upon, they’ll be well prepared for the task ahead.
It’s vitally important that students leave education not only with a qualification, but practical skills and experience that can be applied to future roles, with many firms looking favourably on a young person who has a working knowledge of this software and other digital tools, as we know they’ll be able to hit the ground running on key tasks.
Find out more about the Access ConQuest and Derby College partnership here.