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Management: Looking for clues

Knowing where to get management training is still a huge problem, says Antony Oliver.

RESEARCH BY the Training Organisation for Professionals in Construction last year showed that career development in construction is poor compared to many other industries.

But through the gloom the signs are that where companies are serious about career development they are placing greater emphasis on management training.

TOPIC found that 28% of firms said management and project management training were becoming increasingly important to them.

An NCE survey on training in the industry last October backed this view. This reported that 32% of training was in management skills (NCE 8th October 1998).

But where firms should send their engineers for management training and what the courses should be teaching is less clear.

The list of providers is endless, says TOPIC development manager Sheila Hoile. London Business School, Cranfield Business School, Henley Management College, Ashridge Management College, Reading University, University College London are just some of those offering courses

'The problem at the moment is that there is no bench marking for management training,' says Hoile. While TOPIC's database gives a list of management training providers she says there is no way of rating who offers what.

'We are about to launch a code of practice for training providers which should at least offer firms the right sort of questions to ask.'

The popularity of courses such as MBAs perhaps shows that the traditional view that engineers can progress seamlessly up the career ladder from trainee to manager without help is starting to change. NCE's research showed anecdotal evidence that senior staff were also seeking to develop their own management skills.

But construction firms are still reluctant to send senior staff to expensive management colleges, according to Construction Industry Training Board chief executive Peter Lobban.

'Companies feel the training on offer is not always appropriate to them or their business needs,' he explains. 'If they are training someone to be a very senior manager then the courses are excellent. But for more junior roles they are often less appropriate.'

CITB has started running a series of workshops with clients, contractors, consultants and suppliers. These are aimed at finding out what training is needed throughout the industry supply chain. The results will then go towards formulating bespoke qualifications which meet the industry's management and supervisory needs.

'The workshops will ensure that we have correctly identified the problem,' says Lobban. 'The focus should be on making courses fit for purpose rather than fit by design.'

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