The short life working group (SLWG) met during 2018 and was established to assess and provide recommendations for ‘future new housing and construction skills’. Members included housebuilders, industry organisations, college, university, public sector, training and skills organisations. The SLWG split the future time periods into three areas covering short term (3 years), medium term (4 to 9 years) and long term (10 years+). The group also discussed the role of new technologies and build methods, foresighting of key areas and the factors which can affect skills supply factors. Forty recommendations are included within this summary report.
During the first phase the group discussed current skills pressures, importance of tracking future skills needs, the funding and investment areas which may be required and where specific initial regional focus should be provided. It was found that there were particular shortages and skills pressures in Highland and Islands and also south east Scotland. New courses specific for housebuilding would be useful but must still fall within and contribute towards a modern apprenticeship framework pathway.
Given the importance of offsite construction as a mechanism to step up the supply, various recommendations were discussed. This included using future procurement methods to request offsite construction for larger sites as a pipeline or framework to enable companies to invest in skills and manufacturing for offsite delivery. A number of the recommendations have synergies with those of the UK wide Farmer Review in 2016. The SLWG agreed that there should be ‘capex’ investment in Scotland’s college sector to support new training facilities for the technologies and future skills needs the sector will require. Investment to increase the number of planning and building standards officers is critically important if new housing applications and future growth in delivery are to be achieved through statutory gateways. Use of regional data capture of skills needs would be very helpful and should include the SME sector, if it is to encapsulate the new build subcontractor directions and needs.
Attracting and diversifying the future workforce are essential and a number of recommendations were provided in this area specifically greater social media promotion of the careers, salaries, clean-tech opportunities and pan-Scotland learner journey routes available. Funding and co-ordination across schools outreach activities in Scotland linking with SDS and DYW would be beneficial. Better annual data ‘snapshots’ of those in training and in employment for all parts of the construction sector both private and public would help foresight and plan ahead for future skills needs, both for housebuilding and other subsectors.
Over the next decade the industry is entering a period of transition as new construction technologies, processes, energy devices and smart systems enter into use and mainstream. It is important for the sector to look ahead and plan with all key stakeholders, not only for the industry but also for the economy, environmental and societal benefits which will result from new housing. Finally a key change which would help new housebuilding and construction as a whole is the appointment of either a separate ministerial portfolio for construction, or the appointment of a senior civil servant. This role should have oversight and interlinks across many government departments to align and support the exciting growth opportunities for new housebuilding and construction in the coming decade.