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Skills Update

Keeping construction top of the skills agenda

With skills still at the top of the Government’s agenda, ConstructionSkills is working hard on behalf of the construction industry to ensure that the industry’s skills and training needs are clearly communicated to ministers and MPs.

In recent months Mark Farrar, ConstructionSkills’ Chief Executive, has welcomed new Ministers with responsibilities for skills while, behind the scenes, work has continued to track the progress of the Education and Skills Bill and Draft Apprenticeships Bill through Parliament.

Working with Sector Skills Councils

Mark Farrar met Lord Young, the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Skills and Apprenticeships, in the first quarterly meeting with Sector Skills Councils. At that meeting a number of key construction skills issues were on the agenda, including SSC relicensing, NVQs, the new National Apprenticeship Service and Olympic training.

Currently NVQs are under close scrutiny. The Government’s new Qualifications Credit Framework (QCF) is moving towards standardised qualifications units which could put NVQs at risk of being abolished. NVQs are an essential part of the construction industry’s drive to qualify the workforce, and losing them would be a huge blow to the excellent progress that has been made in this area. This view was shared by several other SSCs.

ConstructionSkills has already addressed these concerns with Ministers and officials and, as a result, work is now underway to draw up an “Additional Regulatory Authority Requirements for NVQs” document that should allow the industry to retain NVQs within the QCF as they are.

The Olympic training discussion provided a forum to talk about the significant progress that has been made with ConstructionSkills’ National Skills Academy for Construction (NSAfC). The Olympic Park construction sites were all approved as NSAfC projects in November. This follows the news that two additional Regional Hubs – NCC East London in Newham and Cathall Road Construction Training Centre in Waltham Forest – have been approved to deliver specialist construction skills to the Olympics. These developments will make significant contributions to the Olympic legacy targets for skills and employment.

Retaining apprentices

Mid-November also saw the first meeting of the newly established Apprenticeship Taskforce, led by Secretary of State John Denham. The Taskforce will bring employers, unions and other partners together to tackle the challenges around increasing apprenticeship volumes in the industry. As a founding partner of this taskforce, ConstructionSkills set out the position of apprenticeships in the industry, as well as thoughts on responding to the downturn and preparing for the upturn.

Developing future skills policy

To ensure we keep abreast of potential future skills policy areas, ConstructionSkills has submitted a written response to the Conservative Party’s Skills Green Paper, ‘Building Skills, Changing Lives’.

The policy paper endorsed the need for employer-led training provision, and contained a strong focus on apprenticeships. In its response ConstructionSkills highlighted how critical apprenticeships are to the success of the construction industry and the challenges faced in recruiting and retaining apprentices, particularly in the current economic climate. The response also emphasised the importance of SSCs in ensuring that each sector has the right qualifications and welcomed the proposed extra resources for accreditation of qualifications.

To keep up to date with all the latest news on what ConstructionSkills is doing and find out more about how your company can get involved in helping secure the future of the UK construction industry register for the Skills Update.

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