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Contracting: Time to train

Having conducted extensive research into the skills needed by the sector, the task for the Infrastructure 21 programme was to produce an education syllabus to match.

Infrastructure 21

As civil servants across Whitehall sharpen their pencils in preparation for the autumn spending review, you might be surprised to hear that money is not the only issue that is causing them alarm.

While most government departments are being asked to take significant haircuts on their future revenue spending, for those that have existing capital programmes of infrastructure to deliver there is also a growing worry about whether industry has the skills and capacity to deliver.

This will not be a new challenge for anyone that works in the sector. Since mid-2013 there has been a recognition that infrastructure workloads are rising. This rise in demand, coming off the back of a downturn where many skilled workers left the sector, presents a challenge to ensuring that available capacity keeps pace.

It was in this environment that the Civil Engineering Contractors Association worked with its members to develop Infrastructure 21. The project, which kicked off in December last year, has two parts.


Critical: Construction companies must recognise the value value of a safe, well-trained workforce

The first was an extensive research project. If the industry faced a capacity challenge, it was vital that we made the best use of every existing member of the workforce.

In the spring we engaged with more than 400 companies to identify the top competences that would be required by the infrastructure workforce of the 21st century.

Our findings, published in July, have offered a clear steer on the way forward. We were pleased to see that health and safety issues topped the agenda. There is no way that we can allow a growing industry to be accompanied by growing numbers of accidents and incidents affecting our workers.

The industry also called for support to improve leadership and management in the sector, ensuring that companies have a strong focus on delivering outstanding outcomes.

However, having this evidence was just the first part of the project. We must now get into the delivery of training to instil these capabilities more widely across the sector. To this end, we are now pleased to launch the first phase of a nationwide programme of training for companies working on infrastructure projects across England, Scotland and Wales.

“There is no way that we can allow a growing industry to be accompanied by growing numbers of accidents and incidents affecting our workers”

Alasdair Reisner, Ceca

Our programme includes sessions on health & safety for directors, targeting the number one issue raised in our survey. In 2016 we are looking to significantly expand this offer with further support to companies to boost their health & safety performance.

To help develop leaders we are working with CITB to signpost their Construction Institute of Leadership & Management ­ qualifications, which provide excellent guidance to build ­leadership capability.

We are running a series of collaborative working seminars across the country, while more detailed workshops will be available for those who show a greater interest. Our programme to the end of the year also signposts opportunities for sustainability and commercial awareness training.

Upskilling barriers

During the course of our research we identified that one of the barriers to upskilling, particularly within smaller companies, was cost. For this reason, we have sought to keep costs as low as possible. For much of the programme the events are free to attend. In the limited cases where there is a cost, this has been kept as low as possible, and can often be reclaimed through other external funding.

We hope that this programme, which runs until the end of the year, will be the first step in the creation of a major programme of free and low-cost training for the sector. If you are interested in taking part in any of these events please contact for further details.

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