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National Skills Academy for Construction launch Speech - 27th November 2006

Sir Michael Latham, Chairman, ConstructionSkills

On behalf of ConstructionSkills, welcome. Thank you to all for being here this afternoon and in particular the Secretary of State and the Minister for Skills to the launch of the National Skills Academy for Construction at 201 Bishopsgate and Broadgate Tower.

Today we are witnessing a landmark event. Led by employers and developed with support from ConstructionSkills the inaugural site for the National Skills Academy for Construction launches today with the support of Bovis Lend Lease and site owners British Land.

The National Skills Academy for Construction brings together all those involved in building projects - employers, clients, contractors and training providers to the same table for the first time to deliver project-specific on-site training, development and business support.

The result is a pioneering approach in skills learning and practises across the construction industry. For the first time expenditure on training will actually follow the trainee and not the classroom.

Success on individual projects has demonstrated the significant advantages of on-site training. Recent high profile and large scale success stories range from Heathrow Terminal 5, St Pancras High Speed One rail link, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and Canary Wharf and we can see for ourselves the phenomenal progress being made here at 201 Bishopsgate and Broadgate Tower.

The next test will be the London 2012 Olympic Games which will be able reap the benefit of on-site trainees.

Nevertheless, for the industry to have high performing workplaces as the norm rather than the exception requires a step change in the concept of project based training.

The National Skills Academy for Construction has the potential to increase the skills of construction workers and managers nationwide, training the parts of the industry that other training cannot reach, by providing on-site learning for entire project teams including workers down the supply chain.

It doesn’t only teach the theory of training but it will give people the chance to practice what they have learnt and thereby acquire real long lasting relevant skills which will be of mutual benefit to both the employer and the employee.

The National Skills Academy for Construction will allow employers to draw on resources in the local community and train local people into jobs while at the same time raise the skills of the existing workforce. This will ensure that we will go a long way to not only addressing the national skills shortage in the construction industry but also in building the foundations for sustainable communities and providing local people with genuine opportunities in long term skilled employment.

Workers and managers will be trained in the exact skills required to deliver specific building projects to standard, on time and to budget. This quality assured training and assessment will last for the lifetime of the project throughout the entire supply chain.

This will undoubtedly enhance the national skills base, and support the construction workforce to realise its full potential.

All large sophisticated projects require a highly skilled, mobile workforce and the National Skills Academy for Construction will now provide the source for this training. Whether this is basic construction training for recruits, upskilling the current workforce or adapting to the challenges of advancing technology.

Over the next five years the National Skills Academy for Construction will support training centres to be established at all significant construction projects in all nine English regions, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

ConstructionSkills through the National Skills Academy for Construction will partner employers in establishing more than thirty National Skills Academy for Construction sites, at projects worth a total of more than £30 billion.

By 2010 it will create at least 10,000 local jobs via apprenticeships and see a further 100,000 experienced workers gain VQ Levels 2 or 3.

The network of on-site training centres will be supported by a fleet of regionally based mobile training centres set up across a range of construction projects such as: major regeneration and development projects, refurbishment and maintenance projects and civil engineering and housing construction projects.

These National Skills Academy for Construction centres will also provide access to specialist training and e-learning facilities. Best-practice will be shared using the regional Centre of Vocational Excellence (CoVE) networks and specialist expertise will be provided through this network and product manufacturers. Capacity and skills intelligence needed to predict the future training requirements will be provided by ConstructionSkills through the Construction Skills Network.

By refocusing training in the construction industry on project specific skills the National Skills Academy for Construction creates a demand led model which directs funds to where they are most needed. Working in this way means that future skills needs can be identified in advance, and planned for accordingly – in essence it provides a degree of certainty which all employers welcome.

On-site training also enables the training providers, including the Higher Education colleges and institutions to focus their curricula and courses directly to the needs of employers.

As I described at the outset, what is paramount is that through the National Skills Academy for Construction money invested in training will follow the trainee and not the classroom.

At a time when skills are of optimum importance in the UK the construction industry has put into practice an approach to training which carries both the broad support of all those connected to the industry and which will be able to deliver the skilled workforce to face the construction challenges of the future.

On that note I would now like to introduce the Secretary of State and invite him to share with us his views on the National Skills Academy….

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