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SPEECH BY SIR MICHAEL LATHAM, CHAIRMAN, CITB-CONSTRUCTIONSKILLS AT THE OPENING OF NEWCASTLE COLLEGE’S CONSTRUCTION SKILLS ACADEMY

(6 JUNE 2006)

Standing here today in this impressive new academy really brings home to me why I am proud to be part of the construction industry. Yes, the buildings and facilities are modern, but these alone are not what will make this academy a success. This centre is an exemplar because it combines good design, and high quality construction with innovative teaching and strong links with industry.

This concept of partnership and working together is one of the foundation stones of the construction industry. At every stage of a new building there is a need for co-operation. The client, the designers and the constructors have to establish together what they want, so they can work collectively to create it. They all need to understand their role in the project, when they are needed, with whom they need to work and to what timescale. Integrated teams produce quality buildings, to time, specification and cost. In construction, as in education, partnership gets results.

That’s why I’m delighted that over recent years the construction industry and the education sector have been working together so closely. Construction organisations throughout the country will be key to the improvements in college buildings. Education authorities and teachers also have a vital role to play in ensuring that we have the right workforce to meet the challenges faced by the construction industry.

Indeed, over the last 10 years the construction industry has undergone unprecedented growth. Across the UK, from here in Newcastle down to London, from Edinburgh to Exeter, there are countless examples of construction projects that have transformed the built environment. Over the past five years, many of these construction projects have been based in the North of England, driving the demands on the industry. One only has to look around this great city and see the Quayside and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge to see how the construction industry can have an impact on everybody’s day-to-day life.

These construction projects have delivered for our customers the quality they need. And buildings like this academy today are also a contribution to changing people's lives for the better.

Over the next ten years, the industry will be called upon even more strongly to complete the high profile projects currently under construction, each one unique and iconic in its own right.

Whether it’s the Olympic Stadium in east London or the redevelopment of Newcastle Green Park, these projects will transform local areas, improve lives and provide opportunity and employment for local people.

The UK construction industry currently employs around 2.5 million people but we know that we can’t stand still if we are going to deliver all the construction projects – the new homes, hospitals, offices, sports facilities – that this country needs. We’re going to need new people, who are skilled and qualified which is exactly why a new construction academy like this is critical.

But just how many workers do we need? We know that there’s no point having an impressive academy such as this, training people and teaching skills, if there are not going to be any real opportunities at the end of it. We at ConstructionSkills have carried out the most extensive research to date, analysing all the construction projects that are coming up over the next five years here in the North East and across the UK. We’ve also assessed just how many people with what skills are needed to build and complete all the projects. This has resulted in the biggest and most detailed picture ever produced of what opportunities there will be in the construction industry over the next five years.

We published the research yesterday and its findings should not surprise you. We predict that on average, every year for the next five years, the construction industry needs 87,000 workers. And in the North East alone we need 4,360 new employees every year to help build all the region’s new facilities and improve its housing stock. These are real opportunities being created every year that need new people, committed people, skilled people, talented people.

These jobs are in exactly the type of trades and skills that this Academy will be teaching. For example, our research shows that in the North East alone, the construction industry will need 360 new bricklayers and more than 100 roofers and scaffolders every year for the next five years. These are new opportunities that will be ready and waiting for local people with the right skills.

We need a home grown workforce that helps to build not only a sustainable construction industry - but also sustainable communities - providing a lasting legacy of skilled workers who can look after their own local environment.

This is a great industry, a historic industry, but also a modern and progressive industry. It has, quite literally, built Britain. And this Academy will play a vital role in creating the skilled workers that this region desperately needs. I wish you all the success in the world and we look forward to working together with you, to build the workforce of tomorrow.

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