Most people in the construction industry agree that on-site health and safety needs to be tightened up, and in tandem with this, that there is room for major improvements in the teaching of skills.
But the responsibility for doing something about it is not always an easy burden to shoulder.
Freeing up workers for training or to demonstrate their skills to an NVQ assessor when they are knee deep in work is disruptive and reduces site productivity, however. There is also an impact on cost.
Yet employers are finding the pressure to tackle skills and safety irresistable, as initiatives like the Major Contractors Group Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) take effect.
To help employers with staff training, the Learning & Skills Council (LSC) and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) operate the on-site assessment and training scheme (OSAT). The LSC is the main government body responsible for vocational education in England. Construction is one of its top priorities.
Through OSAT, the LSC and CITB aim to assess and qualify 10,000 construction workers across the country to NVQ Levels 2 or 3 by July 2004.
This involves fast-track onsite assessment and training in health and safety.
Employers keen to introduce OSAT need to contact the CITB or their local LSC. OSAT assessors arrange on-site visits to find out what training would be most appropriate for their staff and then develop a training plan.
Employees follow this plan at their own speed and can gain transferable qualifications without having to take time off work.
When NVQ qualified workers undergo health and safety training, they receive a CSCS card, which effectively acts as a 'licence to operate'.
'Introducing OSAT is fairly straightforward and requires little paperwork by the employer, ' Taking time out of work to get skilled and qualified is not always easy. But a new on-site skills assessment scheme aims to change that.
reassures LSC co-ordinator Adam Johnson, who is responsible for liaising with training providers and civil engineering firms in the West Midlands. 'And as NVQ assessors go into the business, there is no time wasted on off-site skills assessment, and so no project delays or knock-on losses for the business.'
The scheme has been in operation for seven years but was dramatically scaled up by LSC and CITB in April last year in a bid to reach more construction workers and contractors.
LSC construction strategy manager Stephen Lilley says: 'OSAT is open to anybody employed in the construction sector, whether they have a few years of experience or 30 years.'
He emphasises: 'Employers need to recognise that getting CSCS cards for staff and helping progress their skills levels need not be a lone struggle.'