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Peter Lobban speech (10mins) Inspire Employer/Student focus group event 28th February 2007

Thank you Paul and well done Jonathan. I’m delighted to be here today to help celebrate the success of Inspire Scholarships, a programme which has gone from strength to strength in a remarkably short space of time.

I’d like to reiterate a point made by Sir Michael earlier – that this programme was established in response to a huge fall in applications to construction and built environment degree courses during the 1990’s. Our latest forecasts from the Construction Skills Network suggest that 32% of the new recruits required to join the industry between 2007-2011 will be professional roles such as construction managers, architects and technical staff. So it’s even more important than ever that we ensure an adequate supply of high quality graduates into the construction industry.

We are on the case to address these challenges. Thanks in part to the on-going promotion and support work of ConstructionSkills, applications to construction-related degree courses are increasing faster than overall university applications and appear to be experiencing something of a renaissance. Earlier this month, we heard news that the number of applications received by January this year was up 13% for Civil Engineering and up 16% for building related degree courses. We certainly hope that these figures will continue to rise, as more work is done to improve the image of construction by raising its profile as a desirable, challenging and aspirational career choice.

Through Inspire Scholarships, we currently sponsor some 200 students. The scheme relies heavily on the support of employers and I would just like to take this opportunity to extend my personal thanks to those of you who are supporting the scheme on an ongoing basis. It is a pleasure for ConstructionSkills to be able to work with companies who are committed to nurturing young talent and who understand how this will benefit both their business and the industry in the long term.

I’d also like to thank all the scholars currently on the scheme. Some of the students from the first intake will shortly be graduating and taking up graduate posts within the industry. As they embark on their careers, we wish them all the best. And for those scholars who have recently started their courses, we bid you good luck for the exciting times ahead.

Let us not forget that construction is the UK’s biggest industry, employing over 2.5 million people. We have over 7,500 new projects, with a total value of nearly £190 billion, starting over the next five years. Considering the amount of large-scale building, infrastructure and regeneration projects either being planned or already underway across the country, from the regeneration of a huge area of Liverpool to the construction of the facilities for the 2012 Olympics here in London, it is vital that we can meet our skills needs with people who are sufficiently qualified and experienced.

I’m delighted to be able to announce that we’re now working in partnership with the esteemed Institute of Civil Engineers on its QUEST scheme, which offers grants to students applying for engineering courses. QUEST, which is supported by some of the industry’s largest employers, including McAlpine, Costain, and Atkins, has been in existence since 1977. By adding Inspire to the equation, ConstructionSkills has helped increase the funding for QUEST scholars, in recognition of the fact that both schemes have common aims, and that QUEST already has an established track record in attracting high caliber civil engineering applicants. We’re looking forward to meeting the challenge of generating support from employers in the professional sector for civil engineering scholars.

I’m also pleased to announce that the CITB-ConstructionSkills board has given its full support for the Inspire scheme to continue after two very successful years. This means we’re able to sponsor an additional 100 scholars to meet the overwhelming demand from students this year – and demonstrate our long-term commitment to this venture. This is a great sign for industry and although Inspire is still in its infancy, I hope to see it grow into the most widely recognised and well supported route for the best young talent looking to begin a career in construction.

With your help, Inspire can go from strength to strength in the coming years. I believe that we are already several steps ahead of other industries – Inspire Scholarships get more mentions in the media than other competitive schemes and a great deal of effort goes into marketing the scheme to the student community.

But we still need more employers to meet the demand from the young people applying for the scheme - I can’t emphasise this point enough; without the employers willing to demonstrate a commitment to our scholars, then we don’t have a scheme. We have huge interest from young people, but we now need to match that enthusiasm amongst the employers. We hope that those of you already committed to the scheme will continue to support it so that we are able – again, with your help - to address the recruitment issues faced by the industry and increase the quality and capabilities of those graduates entering it.

If you are here today having not yet signed up to the Inspire Scholarship scheme and hoping to find out more, then we do hope that you will find the day informative and see the potential that this scheme offers you to take a short-cut to the best graduate talent available. I hope that once you have had a chance to speak to employers who have taken on Inspire Scholars, you will strongly consider doing the same – the future of the industry depends on you just as much as it does on the students themselves.

Thank you.

Now I’d like to invite everybody to move through to the River Room for some sustenance and a bit of networking. And remember, if you have any questions at all about the Inspire Scholarship scheme, our team are here to answer them so don’t hesitate to approach one of them for more information.

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