The Future of Construction Training in the UK: Trends and Innovations Shaping the Industry

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The UK Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is responsible for meeting the future skills requirements of the construction industry. The challenge for CITB is that construction is the largest, most diverse sector in the UK, with over 80 different skilled occupations and eight different sectors covering construction. It is also a fragmented industry, with 98% of firms employing fewer than 100 people. The large number of SMEs means that the industry has no coherent voice, and it is very difficult to engage with SME employers and shape their behavior. A major challenge for CITB is engaging micro firms and specialist contractors and suppliers. This is problematic because these firms often engage directly with larger contractors who require them to have formally qualified employees. In addition, there are ongoing issues with rogue traders and labor-only subcontracting. This contributes to a skills slide, as employers are less likely to invest in training for fear that trained individuals will leave to set up their own business or move to a larger contractor. This issue has been made worse by the economic downturn, which has led to the industry shedding jobs and training. The sector has lost 17% of its workforce over the last 3 years but is expected to create 182,000 jobs from 2016-2019 and will need considerable infrastructure work to meet housing, energy, and transport needs. This will put substantial upward pressure on wages and make it more difficult to attract new entrants and individuals from other sectors. This, in turn, will contribute to skills shortages and an aging workforce where a third of tradespeople are over 50 years old. A final challenge is the changing nature of work and the broad context of wider social, economic, and technological changes. This is an issue explored in the first trends article on the need for foresight.

2. Current State of Construction Training in the UK

Apprenticeships have most definitely been affected by the aforementioned requirement for qualifications. They too now feature a requirement to achieve an NVQ/SVQ over the course of an apprenticeship in order to obtain a modern apprenticeship completion certificate. A myriad of work-based qualifications known as NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) and SVQs (Scottish Vocational Qualifications) have been developed and are being developed to meet the new standard.

The big picture behind current construction training is the move to ensure that each worker is skilled and possesses a qualification card of competence. It’s a very simple concept; however, it has required change to happen in order to be achieved. The Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS), administered by CITB-ConstructionSkills, is at the heart of this movement to improve quality and safety through training and qualifications of workers.

3. Emerging Trends in Construction Training

The following trend is the integration of higher learning and the development of clear defined routes for knowledge and skills progression within the construction sector. This trend stems from the need to build a critical mass of skilled individuals in order to raise the performance of the industry and take on more complex work. This ranges from technician level through to professional and managerial level. With the advent of the Latham and Egan reports, studies have shown that there is a higher demand for individuals with professional and managerial skills, from both employers and employees. This is to create a more efficient and sustainable industry. As the sector is the largest producer of university graduates in the UK, higher education institutions are becoming closer involved in skills development and training for the sector. An example of such involvement would be the new development of MSc level construction management courses, tailor-designed for employees of construction companies. This type of training is often part-sponsored by employers and is seen as an attractive way to develop to the next career level with a qualification, whilst still remaining in employment.

The first trend is an increasing shift toward demand-led training and provision. In accordance with market trends, employers are now becoming the largest players in the skills and training market, whereby the investment in their workforce is paramount to their overall success. Studies have shown that almost 75% of all UK training and skills development is now employer funded. This is a sharp contrast to times gone by whereby most skills investment was government led and PDT was primarily an individual pursuit. This trend has seen training move away from off-site provision to a high increase in on-site, company-specific training for their employees. Such training is often tailored to companies’ individual needs and has the added benefit of new skills being transferable and used immediately in a live project.

Our research in the preceding sections depicted an evolving paradigm in construction training, complementary to the strategic transition of the construction industry to a more dynamic, high value, and efficient industry. As the industry and its requirements change, so must the training and skills acquisition of its workforce. It has been noted that training providers have been too slow in supplying the demand for upskilling and multiskilling that the industry now requires. With a pressing skills shortage and an aging workforce, it is clear that the training needs of the industry are great. In light of the impending skills crisis and the need to develop a more competent and dynamic workforce, there are some notable trends emerging.

4. Technological Innovations in Construction Training

Both AR and VR are underused in their application to training, but in a rapidly growing technological industry, it is likely that they will become a key feature in construction training.

An example of AR in construction training is the new Smart Reality app. This app uses QR codes on construction document sets to overlay models on current job sites, showing a real-time comparison of the plan to the in-place building. This can be used for training apprentices in understanding 2D construction documents and translating that knowledge to building in the field.

An example of VR in construction is providing a virtual environment mirroring a construction site, thus allowing trainees to safely interact in that environment and learn from the situations that unfold. During that exercise, surrounding the trainee with a visual and audio environment of a construction site could add to the realism.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are increasingly being used in construction as a training tool. This presents a potentially efficient and cost-effective method of training in a safe environment. VR recreates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates the user’s physical presence and environment to allow for user interaction. AR is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data.

5. Sustainable Practices in Construction Training

The environmental benefits are not the only reasons why sustainability will play an important role in the future of the construction industry. All clients, whether public or private sector, are bound by increasingly stringent and complex requirements to prove that their decisions are economically, socially, and environmentally sound. This trend is driven by the requirements of good governance, together with the better understanding of the implications of decisions, risks, and trade-offs. Globalisation and the rapid increase in awareness that decisions have multiple consequences have led to the understanding that sustainable development is all about the need to make a clear set of linked decisions that provide for a better life for future generations. This approach challenges the chain of decisions made by clients, design, and construction teams to optimize value, perhaps only in the short term, often at the expense of resources and the environment. An example of long-term value optimization is the decision to today paint timber with proper preservative treatments and good paint systems instead of using hardwoods or treated metals.

The construction industry is associated with various environmental and social downsides. A 2006 research by The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (OPDM) identifies several key areas in which the development of lifelong learning would help deliver sustainable construction. To support this advanced training, the practice of off-site manufacture and pre-assembly of components could be developed into a formal way of working, as opposed to the current trend which is often to develop these components on a separate contract specific basis. This would require a change in the way components are designed and specified to facilitate their manufacture in factory settings. The research also identified knowledge dissemination and learning as another area in sustainable practice needing development.

6. The Role of Virtual Reality in Construction Training

Virtual Reality (VR) leaves an environment designed by programmers using a computer, which attempts to simulate a real-world setting. VR systems create an interface between the user and the artificial environment. The only thing limiting VR from being identical to the real world is the advancement of hardware and a perfect interface. VR can also be mixed with physical simulation, which creates an interface for the user that is actually inside the artificial environment. An example of physical simulation is a steering wheel for a driving game, rather than the directional keys which have no correlation to driving a car. The simulated environment can also be on a screen with the user controlling their actions and decisions, although this is not as effective as being inside the actual environment.

Many industries depend on high-level skills and knowledge. The construction industry is no exception to this. There is a growing demand for construction workers to be trained to a higher level, and there are always going to be limits to what can be taught in an artificial environment. Research has shown that people learn more by learning through doing. It is said that “1 day of practical experience is worth 1000 words.” If that’s the case, then how many words or how long does a classroom session in college or at work last? This is compared to actually learning through physical experience every day on a live construction site.

7. Importance of Soft Skills in Construction Training

Soft skills are shown to be the most effective way of making a progression from craftwork into supervision or management roles. These types of skills are necessary for effective leadership and for workers to be able to assume responsibility for the direction and supervision of groups of workers to achieve a specific task or goal. This directly addresses the need for project managers and site superintendents to bring productivity and efficiency to construction projects. Evident in today’s construction industry, many trade and management positions require some form of post-secondary education, and project management in its own right is a unique occupation with a defined scope of practice and methodology. A project manager will heavily rely on higher-level soft skills such as critical thinking, decision making, and judgment to achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency when deciding how to approach a task or correct an ineffective work method by a group of tradesmen. Soft skills in leadership and management have significant importance in the assimilation of proper work methods and schedules, which lead to greater productivity in construction.

Upon entering the construction industry, multiple skills are necessary for a worker to effectively progress in his or her career. The jobsite is an ever-changing, evolving environment that necessitates flexibility, working properly within a teamwork context, and an ability to communicate with fellow workers and superiors. These types of skills are generally classified as “soft skills” and are opposed to the “hard skills” which include operating machinery, learning how to pour a foundation, or building a scaffold. A competency comparison would show the difference between soft and hard skills, with hard skills being directly needed in the construction craft. Although hard skills are necessary to become qualified and follow through on an identified scope of work, often times workers will find themselves lost or inefficient at the progression of a task due to a lack of procedural knowledge, resulting in doing multiple tasks over. This is impractical for construction as productivity is the largest marker of profit and efficiency has no alternative. An excerpt from the Construction Conference on Soft Skills states, “A craftsman who is skilled in procedure will be more successful in completing his work with minimum wasted resources, resulting in higher productivity.”

8. Enhancing Safety and Risk Management in Construction Training

Formal safety training in the UK construction sector largely originated from the health and safety culture of the 1960s and 1970s. It has been emphasized since then by the growth and increased application of legislation, codes of practice, and various standards in the construction industry. However, this legislation has often been introduced in reaction to specific incidents or unsafe practices. There are several reasons to suggest that the industry has continued to underperform in terms of safety, despite the fact that the provision of a safe working environment is enshrined in UK law. Safety training in the sector has been characterized as being: – Reactive instead of proactive – Focused on micro issues with relatively little time spent on learning from the past – Viewing safety as separate from productivity and not as a necessary knowledge area for construction managers and supervisors.

9. Addressing Skills Gaps in Construction Training

The significance of skills development and transfer is now seen as paramount in achieving productivity gains and ensuring that the quality of construction work meets the needs of customers and the wider society. Failure to address these issues could lead to severe productivity barriers and inflated costs, as well as reliance on immigrant labor to carry out the simpler tasks. This, in turn, may not deliver the aspirations of higher quality, more efficient construction processes and would damage the industry’s perception and its ability to attract new recruits.

However, the skills needs for a shifting and increased quality of work in the coming decades are now also more clear. Globally, the UK construction industry must adapt to a low carbon efficient future, with construction methodologies and a leaner, higher skilled workforce consistent with the Egan and Latham reports. Locally, an aging workforce means that existing skills and knowledge must be transferred to a more technologically adept younger generation.

In March 2009, the government established a UK Commission for Employment and Skills to study the construction industry’s skills needs over the coming decades. The study identified self-evident shortages in recent years and made projections for the skill supply needed in the next 10-15 years, due to large gaps and mismatches between stock and requirements. This projection indicated a need for 411,000 workers to be created between 2008 and 2011, with fewer than 18,000 workers required to replace those leaving the sector. This growth will be driven almost exclusively by increased private and public sector investment in infrastructure development programs.

10. The Future of Apprenticeships in Construction Training

Apprenticeships have been a fundamental training route into the construction industry for centuries, developing skilled workers in a learn-while-you-earn system. However, in modern times, there are concerns over the attraction to young people and the relevance of the skills developed. Government backing and funding have seen the introduction of apprenticeships in more professional and technical areas like construction, although much of the funding has not actually trickled down to the construction industry and has gone into other areas. There have been attempts to streamline the system through Vocational Qualifications (VQs) and NVQs to give clearer progression routes, whilst the engagement of the Construction Industry Training Board has led more recently to the development of apprenticeship frameworks designed to prepare the future workforce for specific areas like craft or technical supervision.

11. Incorporating Artificial Intelligence in Construction Training

The training implications of AI are profound. Beyond learning to use and maintain new AI-driven machinery and tools, there should be a demand for construction AI specialists, and AI training content may need to be integrated within existing construction courses. Pattern recognition is a basic AI capability, and it’s likely AI software will be able to facilitate learning by presenting complex data in simple formats. One example might be learning from project management mistakes by comparing and contrasting visual timelines of a project that went well and one that went badly. Complex simulations in virtual environments could help develop decision-making skills in a safe and controlled context. With an aging and decreasing workforce, training AI to fill labor shortages in the form of robots or exoskeletons is a long-term possibility. AI is often feared because of its potential to replace human jobs, but in reality, technological progress has always created new skilled jobs, and construction training will need to adapt to keep pace with the convergence of AI and the industry.

The potential benefits of AI for construction are wide-ranging. Machine learning software and algorithms will be able to analyze data from previous projects to establish best practices and improve future decision making. A British start-up ‘Dashflow’ is developing an AI system to analyze project data and predict, prevent, and mitigate delays and cost overruns. Computer vision technology can be used to monitor safety and quality on site, and natural language processing is being developed for translation and communication on increasingly international projects.

The main driver behind AI in the construction industry is to create algorithms that can solve problems, make decisions, and take actions – in essence, imitate human cognition. In so doing, it’s seen as a way to automate and therefore improve many aspects of the industry. The industry has always been driven to technological advances, and AI has the potential to streamline processes and make construction more efficient. The prospect of driverless plant and machinery is an early and high-profile AI development. The major machinery companies are in a race to develop the first fully autonomous machine, and small-scale GPS-controlled devices such as bricklaying robots are already in operation. AI software is also helping with design and planning; simulation programs can test infinite design possibilities, analyzing strengths and weaknesses, and learn from each test to refine the design.

12. Advancements in Building Information Modeling (BIM) Training

With the government’s objectives in mind, the Centre for Digital Built Britain has launched a program to develop a range of training activities for professionals at all levels to acquire the right BIM skills and knowledge. This program will be funded by the government’s investment of £15m to improve the technical skills of UK construction, with the overall aim to ensure that the UK government’s 2016 BIM legal condition will be met and also to improve industry efficiency. The overarching objective of this training program is to develop a critical mass of suitably trained individuals, equipped with the necessary BIM skills and knowledge, to enhance their employability and enable UK construction to derive the full benefits of BIM on projects.

The construction industry has witnessed rapid adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM) in the past decade, with a large majority of UK construction organisations believing that BIM would be a significant factor in the industry within the next 3 years. However, the extent of this technology’s adoption has been hindered by a lack of knowledge among construction professionals of what BIM actually is and its potential benefits. The UK government has recognised BIM as a value-creating technology and a key means to drive efficiency in construction. It has set clear objectives of BIM Level 2 for all centrally procured construction projects by April 2016, with the key benefits of improved cost, value, and carbon performance of assets throughout their lifecycle, time efficiencies, and reduced trade for the government. Essentially, these benefits mean that the government sees BIM as a means to deliver sustainable social value and help the UK become a world leader in smart construction. Realisation of these benefits is heavily reliant on the proficiency of professionals to fully utilise BIM on construction projects. This brings up the issue of training.

13. Implementing Gamification in Construction Training

Studies have shown that the use of game-based learning results in higher skill-based knowledge retention when compared to traditional teaching methods. By giving these games to prospective trainees, it could theoretically speed up the knowledge process of learning the theories behind the trade. In an Australian study by Darryl Dymock, a substantial improvement in knowledge about ergonomic risk factors was observed from the participants who had played the game when compared to those who had not. This could indicate a positive start in the health and safety sector in an industry infamous for taking shortcuts around complex and often costly WHS regulations.

Gamification is the implementation of game design mechanisms in non-game scenarios. Its use in the realm of training has grown significantly over the past decade, with attempts made to increase learning efficiencies in a range of contexts. This considered, it is surprising that there has been little focus in investigating its potential use in trade skill and professional training. Game-based learning shares close synergies with trade skill training. The nature of contextual problem-solving and, in some instances, trial and error self-learning has strong correlations between the two. The construction industry, among other trades, could benefit significantly from useful and engaging, well-designed games to provide not only a resource for potential apprentices and trainees but also existing workers looking to develop new skills.

14. Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Construction Training

Before we get started here, I want to say something about the term ‘women in construction’… In the 1990s, the term was really useful. Then it became a bit controversial – it was almost like you were setting women apart. So you had to be careful who you were using it with. Nowadays, I tend to avoid it and just talk about ‘people’. And that’s it – people. Different people. There’s more than one way to do a job and we want to offer opportunity to everyone. Back in the early 2000s, the CITB set up a task force to research the underrepresentation of people from ethnic backgrounds. This led to a report and film – Constructing Lives – which set a strategy and target towards fair representation and equality. But, during the recession in 2008, many colleges and companies cut their equality and diversity departments, seeing advanced practitioners as a ‘luxury’. Activity and development slowed a bit here, but goals and targets remained. This activity has once again picked up and the CITB has a range of resources that can be downloaded and used to promote equality and diversity within the industry – visit our equality and diversity toolkit and the Equality and Diversity in Construction: A Toolkit for Trainers on the GoConstruct website.

15. The Impact of Robotics on Construction Training

Robotic technology, much of which emerged from the defence industry, may have the potential to revolutionize the way future construction will be designed, managed, and assembled. This may have a significant impact upon the kind of pre-deployment and on-site training that will be necessary for these new methods of construction to be implemented successfully. Unfortunately, there is as yet little evidence or consensus regarding the likely scale or form that robotic technology will take within construction, and so a comprehensive analysis of this topic is beyond the scope of this paper. However, it is likely that the implementation of robotics will reduce the need for semi-skilled and unskilled labor and shift the focus further towards management, maintenance, and the skilled and technical trades. For instance, a bricklaying robot will likely have its own support team consisting of those who design its work program, transport and maintain it on-site, and manage its integration with other building elements. This has the potential to create a new trade specializing in the building and maintenance of robots, though it is more likely that these skills will form a module within traditional construction management and engineering courses. Meanwhile, bricklaying as a trade might see itself taking on more of a supervisory role both on and off-site, ensuring that the work of the robotic systems is of high quality. This too will necessitate a change in training to prepare tradespeople to interact with and manage robotic systems.

16. Collaboration and Teamwork in Construction Training

29. Work on CSR identified a wide range of teamwork and team leadership skill areas that require attention in future training. These include setting goals and plans, conflict resolution, crew briefings, methods of involving workers in decision making, and how to take on a leadership role in encouraging safe working practices. An example of poor goal setting and planning was described by a trainee quantity surveyor, who was tasked with writing a report on progress performance measurement for his company’s site managers. Unsatisfied with several attempts at the task, the trainee was given different priorities before eventually being asked to do other work instead. This left the report incomplete and the trainee unsure of its requirements. Crew briefings were highlighted as a common skill deficiency across all trades and occupations, with many workers being unsure of what it entails and how to do it effectively.

28. Joint problem solving involves working together to identify a solution to a common problem. Slightly over half of the apprentices were involved in identifying the problem and generating potential solutions, with a slightly lower proportion involved in selecting the best solution and implementing it. The most common problems identified are shown in the following table. This suggests that traditional fragmentation of the industry may still be present, with only a few apprentices working for a firm that selected comparing methods or involving the client as a problem on their most recent job. An interesting finding when comparing the UK’s data to USA findings is that selecting the best solution was the least common stage in both countries. This may imply that trade and craft workers are unpracticed in more complex decision-making processes. However, on a more optimistic note, there are no significant differences in the level of teamwork across different age groups or trades, implying that unified training strategies will benefit all groups.

17. Effective Communication Skills in Construction Training

Another major aspect of communication which is vital to training is the provision of feedback. This could involve giving trainees constructive feedback on their performance, giving them information about whether they are reaching their learning objectives or it might mean giving them information about what success on their given training course might lead to in terms of future career or continuing education. Feedback is a very broad concept and it might be best understood in a cyclical model of the learning process which incorporates several different forms of feedback. This is explored in depth in a paper for the Institute of Education Sciences which puts forward A Model of Learning and Feedback for Educators and Students. This paper may have been written for school environments, but much of the theory is transferable to work based learning or apprenticeships. According to the paper, feedback may serve as a motivator, provide information or guidance, help diagnose a problem, or stimulate a remedial effort, and lastly provide evidence of the success or failure of what has been done. In construction learning outcomes, feedback can allow trainees to be more aware of what is expected of them at each stage, diagnosing problems can increase safety and prevent errors, and feedback can help those seeking to improve their skills.

An important aspect of motivation in training involves participation in decision making, or autonomy. In classroom settings, this could involve allowing students to have some input into the topics for case study analysis. In practical training, it might involve getting trainees more involved in identifying their own learning needs and formulating their own learning objectives. For example, learner involvement is an objective of government led by CITB ConstructionSkills initiatives to improve the development and uptake of Personal Development Plans (PDPs) by individuals and employers. This is based on the idea that engagement with the PDP process will help individuals take more responsibility for their own personal and professional development. This is just one of many CITB ConstructionSkills initiatives which could be reanalyzed from a motivational perspective.

18. Adapting to Changing Regulations and Standards in Construction Training

Finally, European labor mobility and the recognition of qualifications directive and the establishment of professional “Institutes” for various construction disciplines suggest that the trend towards formal qualifications and professional status in construction is likely to grow stronger and will have implications for construction training and training providers. This is a complex and multifaceted issue with differing perceptions and realities at various levels and sectors in construction, requiring further in-depth and longitudinal research to ascertain true impacts on how training is done and skills are acquired and utilized in UK construction.

Other initiatives have included an increasing number of health and safety qualifications and the requirement for site supervisors and managers to attain an NVQ level 3 in site supervision to practice, reflecting broader moves in the sector to improve the status and quality of supervisors and to push for greater professionalism and formal managerial skills in a historically informally managed industry.

A major part of this was the setting up of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme, which has made attainment of qualifications and periodic assessment a requirement for workers to obtain a card allowing them to work on major sites. This has been seen as a double-edged sword, as despite clear evidence that it has driven up demand for training and made training far more visible and important in the eyes of construction workers and employers, it has led to much “box ticking” upskilling to gain a card without real transfer of learning.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), which has been collecting a levy from all registered construction employers since 1964 with the express purpose of raising training standards, has stated attaining formal qualifications as a strategic aim and increasing trend in recent years in its various sector publications, as well as funding NVQ achievement and other training initiatives. This has been buttressed by an increasing body of legislation seeking to improve health and safety standards in the construction sector, founded on the view that raising skills and training is key to reducing the number of accidents in construction.

Changes and developments in both the UK construction industry and the education systems that seek to train workers for it tend to be slow and incremental, and this is certainly the case with the move towards formal qualifications in construction. During the 1980s and 90s, there was an increasing realization that the old adage “the only good learner in construction is a good worker” was no longer acceptable, with repeated disturbing statistics suggesting that a high proportion of serious and fatal accidents were linked to unskilled workers and that poor quality construction was often the result of a lack of training.

19. The Role of Continuous Professional Development in Construction Training

Lifelong learning will be the means by which construction professionals continue to develop the knowledge and skills that are required to respond to the many challenges facing the industry and to deliver a better quality and more sustainable built environment. CPD will provide the mechanism to achieve this. It will involve structured learning events that are designed to have a measurable learning outcome. A very broad range of activities can be classed as CPD, from learning a language to taking an advanced degree. The key is that the activity must be a developmental experience designed to expand a person’s knowledge and competence in a defined area. This will be increasingly important for professionals working in multidisciplinary fields and for those who are specialists in a particular area of work.

Continuous professional development (CPD) for construction professionals has been increasingly recognized as a key factor in updating and maintaining standards of knowledge and competence. It is an important tool to help overcome the traditional image of the construction industry as an insular, low-tech, and low-skill sector and to address the ever-increasing demand for higher levels of skills and education. The industry will need to attract entrants with higher levels of qualification and competence. This will occur as the nature of work in an increasingly complex and technologically driven industry will require more autonomous and flexible workers who can make well-informed judgments.

20. Building Resilience and Mental Well-being in Construction Training

A host of recent investigations and strategy documents highlight the mental and physical toll that working in the construction industry can have on its workforce. One quarter of construction workers have considered taking their own lives and two-thirds of those working in construction have experienced mental ill health. The Construction Industry Training Board has conducted extensive research into mental health in the construction industry, and while their statistics make for stark reading, their timely intervention has paved the way for real change in this area. Acknowledging that the culture of the industry has in the past allowed for a traditional ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude to prevail, the CITB has made efforts to challenge this. Their “Building Mental Health” website is packed with all manner of resources for those working in the construction industry. One particularly notable aspect is the provision of free training to equip up to 2,400 construction firms with the knowledge to understand and manage poor mental health, in a bid to tackle the stigma attached to it and normalize conversations about mental wellbeing. This initiative is a promising step towards fostering a climate in the construction industry where employees feel that their mental health is valued and that they are able to seek help if they need it. It is noted that building resilience and promoting positive mental health is not just about preventing poor mental health, but about enabling individuals to thrive and adapt effectively in the face of adversity. This concept of ‘mental fitness’ has not previously been a focus in the construction industry, and yet it is vital to the wellbeing and productivity of workers. In seeing resilience as a skill that can be developed, it opens up an important new dimension in helping to equip individuals with the tools they need to stay mentally well in the long term. An understanding of the importance of mental health has led to interesting innovations in the approach to training apprentices. mentioned a project by Mates in Mind; an initiative across the UK construction industry offering a bespoke training package for the more than 400,000 operatives and 250,000 workers in the industry, and their employers. This aims to increase understanding and awareness of poor mental health, reduce stigma and provide the skills and information needed to address it. Fundamentally, addressing mental wellbeing should be an integral part of any training program in construction. This requires a proactive and informed approach from training providers who have the challenge of addressing a culture of mental health that runs deep within the construction industry. An understanding of the specific problems that construction apprentices might face, and making them aware of the support available is a good starting point. However, if the culture of the construction industry is to change, so must the apprentices who will eventually be the leaders and the workforce. This requires that mental health becomes not just a consideration, but a deeply embedded value in the attitudes of those who are trained. With a move towards a more open culture of mental wellbeing within the industry, there is reason to believe that apprentices of today in the future may be better equipped to face the challenges of poor mental health in the workplace.

21. Harnessing Data Analytics in Construction Training

Whilst the CITB project is specifically focused on market intelligence, there is potential for training providers to use data analytics to inform their wider education and training provision. The goal is to support evidence-based decision making by providing training providers with insights that could help to improve the quality, relevance, flexibility, and efficiency of training. This could be achieved in several different ways. At the most basic level, training providers could use readily available labour market information to better understand the demand for different skills and types of training within the construction industry. This could be used to inform decisions about what types of training to provide and recruit onto, or to tailor existing provision to better meet industry needs.

Robust data analytics could play a vital role in shaping the future of construction training by providing insights into the knowledge, skills, and attributes required to develop a workforce to meet the needs of a modern construction industry. The UK’s CITB has recognized the potential of using data to inform education and training provision and has recently commissioned a study to better understand the nature of the current construction training market. The Institute of Employment Research has been tasked with developing a model of the training market and identifying potential areas for CITB intervention. This project is an important first step in understanding the training market and should provide valuable insights into the potential for data analytics to inform training provision.

22. Improving Productivity through Lean Construction Training

One of the chief objectives for the construction industry in training is to improve productivity. It has been stated that the UK construction industry is less productive now than it was in 1994. It is also estimated that the introduction of CSCS has had a negative effect overall on the productivity of the industry. Written evidence to the EAC from Exelin Group Ltd stated that the training and up-skilling of the workforce will bring about increased productivity in the long term, but in the short term it has not had a positive effect. Lean Construction aims to replace non-value adding activities with value adding ones and this is the single best method for increasing productivity. One of the biggest advantages of Lean Training is that it is highly interactive and exercises draw on the personal experiences of the delegates, it is a course “about construction, for the people in construction” and is therefore much easier to engage with than training of other subjects. Lean Construction training is currently aimed at construction managers, but the skills can be learned at any level, especially if the entire project supply chain is involved in the processes.

23. Integrating Sustainable Design Principles in Construction Training

Sustainability and construction training in the UK has often been covered by the CKE, and the work of many, including Brammer (2007), is now completed in the area of sustainability learning outcomes for construction professionals. What becomes apparent when considering sustainability learning in construction is that it should not simply be a module or a series of lectures aimed at instilling sustainable design knowledge into future construction professionals. This type of teaching will run the risk of creating a generation of construction engineers who have the ability to design sustainably, but lack the ability to critically analyze and appraise their own work and the work of others. It is better to encourage students to research and make their own conclusions, developing a deeper understanding of the principles of sustainability through reflection and application. This can be achieved by integrating sustainability considerations into all learning areas within a construction degree. A simple example would be mathematics teaching, a common area of student dismay when considering its relevance to construction. When teaching structural analysis it would be possible to show students how the use of different materials and sizes of members will affect the carbon footprint of a structure, but integrate the sustainability principle into a broader topic, giving the student an opportunity to consider sustainability but also develop a deeper understanding of the subject. An example from recent research shows how decision support systems may be used to aid concept formation stages in design and will be very useful in the educational context. This creates a scenario in which a student may be guided to consider sustainability issues at a design stage, compared with conventional learning where sustainable design is considered at a later stage and often seen as a bolt-on.

24. Developing Leadership Skills in Construction Training

It appears that future leaders will benefit from construction management training at the postgraduate level. There has been rapid growth in offering management courses to engineers at MSc level around the globe. Yet, in most cases, these courses are inadequately delivered by staff without industry experience and can serve to alienate tomorrow’s leaders from their technical peers and create an identity crisis (Orr 2001). A recent study by Carr and Savage (2013) outlines how today’s modern construction manager is better to be a ‘reflective practitioner’, which requires a level of professional self-awareness and ability to think critically. These are the principles of modern management and leadership education.

The future construction leader will have to be able to manage across different organizations within the supply chain and be effective working in joint venture relationships with competitor firms. Alliances and joint ventures are seen as vehicles for increased efficiency and effectiveness in project delivery. Yet, the industry is still characterized by adversarial relationships which spill over into legal disputes. Young leaders with technical skills are often ill-equipped to deal with these situations. O’Connor (1993) identified that the typical construction manager’s training was inadequate to prepare them for the complexities of the role. Simulation and other forms of scenario-based learning are suggested as a means of better preparing them (Eastman and Sacks 1999). This is another area where the wider higher education sector has much to offer our future leaders.

These styles of leadership are very different from the status quo and require leaders to be able to think critically and be creative. Our sector does not historically breed independent and critical thinkers, but as sector-specific knowledge and technical skills become secondary in importance, leaders with the ability to think for themselves and innovate will be required.

Beck (2006) suggests that there is an overriding culture within construction which discourages individuality. It is, of course, the maverick leaders like Mark Farmer, CEO of Cast Consultancy, who are driving change in the industry. But, on the whole, it is a fair comment. Transformational leadership is about taking the whole team on a journey to a new desired state. Leaders can do this through identifying necessary changes, creating a vision to direct the change, and executing it with commitment.

It is important for any industry that leadership skills top the training agenda. There are strong arguments to suggest that in construction, the development of leaders has specific requirements. In an earlier edition of this journal, Thomas (2002) argued that construction is a profession frequently accused of poor management. To begin with, he suggests that generally accepted styles of management are not effective in the construction environment. Project-driven enterprises need facilitative leadership and not the conventional command and control structures. Thomas has studied leadership, culture, and stress in the construction industry and has suggested the need for transformational styles of leadership as commonly associated with fast-moving high-tech industries.

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25. The Future of Site Management Training in Construction

However, the requirement to possess the relevant CSCS Health and Safety test, together with the growing emphasis on the NEBOSH construction certificate, is leading people to believe that they need to be better qualified in order to secure a site management position. NEBOSH is the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health. Attainment of the NEBOSH National Certificate in Construction Health and Safety is a prime example of a desired qualification for site managers to hold. The NEBOSH general and construction certificates are well recognized within the UK and are a minimum standard for anyone wanting to embark on or develop their health and safety career. Due to demand, it is now feasible to complete this qualification by distance e-learning. Possession of this certificate, together with a certain amount of site experience, can express a site manager’s commitment to health and safety and significantly improve his/her prospects of work. It is also possible that the NEBOSH certificate will soon become a mandatory requirement for site managers in the construction industry. This will be when the transition of those coming from unrelated industries will need to have further training in order to secure a site management position.

With the growth in demand and provision of new site management jobs in the construction industry, it is becoming increasingly important for construction project managers to have recognized training and qualifications. In the past, the majority of people working in site management have progressed to their position through a trade supplemented by years of site experience. This is still a valid route to the profession and there are many construction managers in post who have had no formal training.

26. Enhancing Quality Control and Assurance in Construction Training

A key issue here is the need for effective monitoring and evaluation of training provision, something which to date has been lacking throughout the majority of the sector. The recent establishment of the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) National Construction College (NCC), as well as declining budgets in government funding for further education institutions, on whose construction departments the industry has historically relied, suggests that there will be a trend towards vocational construction training taking place “in-house” in the future. This will lead to closer links between employer and training provider, making it easier to identify the training needs of employers, which have often been overlooked by training providers who themselves have no construction background. This can only be a good thing for the industry. However, the CITB and government must ensure that it does not result in a drop in the quality of provision for the less reputable employers, for whom training has historically been seen as a costly necessity rather than an investment in the future workforce.

Having established a platform of good practice, we are now well placed to develop systems for monitoring and improving the quality of training provision. This is an area in which the construction industry has not been synonymous with getting things right the first time. However, we speculate that the increasing value placed by the industry on a qualified and competent workforce, embodied by the 2007 legislation making CSCS accreditation a requirement for all skilled workers on site, will lead to a culture change in the approach to training quality.

27. Bridging the Gap between Academia and Industry in Construction Training

As with previous governments that have tried initially to drive up the skills level of the whole workforce, the last decade or so has seen various efforts by the industry to forge a closer relationship with the academic sector at different levels in order to ensure that the training and education being provided addresses its own skills needs. While it has always been accepted that basic civic and numeracy skills and the knowledge and understanding of construction technology are best taught in a classroom or other academic environment.

This reflects a policy priority for vocational education and training to be located within further and higher education. This location is the result of a long and complex arrangement of policies and political decisions by a wide-ranging group of stakeholders, including the various government departments for education and training throughout the 1980s-2000s and, in more recent times, positions taken by the sector skill councils responsible for the early establishment of Cskills, now CITB-Construction Skills-Training Organisation for the UK construction industry. The intention at all times was to increase the education and skills levels of the workforce and to place construction on an equal footing with the rest of the economy by making higher education and level 4 qualifications the norm for those entering to become site managers and professional construction specialists.

Academia has become the natural home of nearly all forms of initial construction training, culminating in a number of vocationally oriented foundation degrees and a very small number of construction specific vocational qualifications such as those produced by the Chartered Institute of Building. Even NVQ, which are specifically aimed at the workplace, are delivered through a partnership between academia and industry.

28. Addressing Health and Safety Challenges in Construction Training

While these methods are not cost-effective in using the current measure of training quality, it is likely that the future increased litigation of negligence claims in the construction industry will lead to higher costs of inadequate training and a greater focus on training quality. At this juncture, it would seem likely that the general level of health and safety training within the construction industry will increase, with a true convergence being found between health and safety training and industry skills training.

Adopting a more specific approach to health and safety training would suggest a move away from the traditional forms of training and has the potential to alienate the older generation of workers within the industry. Simulation-based training using virtual reality and augmented reality has already proven to be effective in training health and safety skills within other industries and could represent a major leap forward in health and safety training within construction. If training continued to be industry-specific, then game-based simulation would be an effective means of training for the younger generation of workers who are familiar and comfortable with this style of technology.

When other industries were required to improve their health and safety, they found it easier to modify existing training programs or to incorporate health and safety training into general skill development. Unfortunately, there has been little common ground established between the UK’s construction industry and the general health and safety industry in terms of training. So long as the skills required remain industry-specific, then the training also needs to be specific. This presents us with a substantial challenge, given that the industry is facing a massive skills shortage and that the majority of new entrants into the industry have low levels of formal education.

Another crucial training challenge facing the modern construction industry is the increasing importance placed on health and safety skills, training, and knowledge within the sector. In recent years, the industry has been identified as being particularly dangerous in terms of occupational health and safety, with construction workers having a rate of injury calculated at 2.7% higher than the national average. The obvious gap between the level of health and safety knowledge and skills required in the industry and the level of training taking place in this area forms a challenge that is specific to the construction industry.

29. The Role of Building Regulations in Construction Training

In the construction industry, compliance with building regulations has a huge bearing on the skills that are necessary in the workforce. Building regulations generally lean towards the employment of more skilled workers in an effort to produce a higher standard of work, often creating a greater demand for skilled tradespeople and professionals who are trying to advance their skills. The training industry responds to this by constantly developing the skills of the workforce and introducing training initiatives that are geared towards upskilling the present workforce. The outcome of such initiatives will increase the competence of workers and provide a larger number of highly skilled workers, professionals, and managers, and a smaller number of unskilled workers. With the greater demand for skills and the smaller pool of unskilled workers, the industry will encounter increased labor costs. The increased costs of employing skilled workers may drive employers to reduce costs in other areas and employ fewer workers, possibly leading to a labor shortage. This would have a significant impact on the industry, and it is important to monitor the extent of this and the effects on the skills and competence of the remaining workforce.

30. Promoting Innovation and Creativity in Construction Training

Efforts to promote innovation and creativity in training have been seen as of paramount importance to foster the culture change needed in construction. The research highlights a range of initiatives at provider level, particularly those of the specialist sector skills councils. Key to these initiatives has been the scope to more fully involve industry in training to ensure that trainees are better attuned to its needs and more effectively prepared for entry to the world of work. The research has seen the potential for piloting and innovation being best exploited in construction, a good example being the development of new foundation degrees to provide higher level skills and training for site managers and technical supervisors. A more flexible approach to funding has been identified as an important driver for innovation in training. This includes closer working relations between industry clients and training providers and trialling of new modes of learning and more use of simulated and off-site learning environments. The wider research has also identified the need for institutional changes within government to better promote innovation within the learning and skills sector.

This research report has focused on the changes needed in UK construction training to enable it to meet its future challenges. A central concern has been with providing an adequate research base for training and with better mechanisms to ensure that training is informed by research and the wider environment of change in which the industry operates. One recommendation has been for the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to take a strategic lead in training. This assumes retention of a CITB but with a more sharply focused remit on training and without its present involvement in direct training provision. Another has been to establish a Construction Training Authority which would provide an overview of training and qualifications in the wider construction sector with a view to enhancing the attractiveness and transferability of employment and skills between different parts of the industry.

31. The Future of Construction Training: Challenges and Opportunities

This paper highlights the wealth of data and insight available and suggests a strategic focus for discussion. This is detailed in Section 3, outlining the likely future learning context for the industry development, and Section 4, underpinning the specific future learning needs for the workforce, trades supervisory occupations, and professional management. Both areas provide a platform of findings and data that the industry needs to absorb and plan into its future learning provision in order to be more efficient and effective in achieving its evolving skill needs. This paper is an indication of the continuous program of research that will be taking place over the years, informed by the emerging knowledge and learning context.

The abundant new knowledge, insights, and research will help to shape and influence future policy and strategic direction. As such, the Department for Education and Skills, through the Learning and Skills Council for England, has commissioned a four-year research project to be managed by CITB-ConstructionSkills and Egan Project to assess the future learning and development needs of the sector. This research is a current platform of research that Nottingham University will lead an international Research Consortium in Future Construction Manager Learning (FACMAN), made up of industry and academic institutions formed to understand and make recommendations on optimal ways to provide learning and development to the future leaders of the industry. This work package takes the latest of the Government and International research and disseminates it via a facilitated futures workshop. Additionally, the application of foresight scenario planning will be adopted to prepare and develop a range of projective scenarios to better enable the industry to understand what the future potential learning and development needs might be. Measures will then be proposed for an adaptive systematic approach to learning and development that the industry needs to consider over the short, medium, and longer terms to prepare itself and its workforce for a rapidly changing global environment.

32. Conclusion

With a growing trend in offsite construction methods, ICT, and the use of virtual environments, training methodologies are expected to change with increasing use of simulation-type training due to its cost-effectiveness and a reduction in health and safety risks.

Globalisation is having a big impact on the industry and is expected to shape continuing trends in training. There is a realisation that UK firms are now having to compete with companies from all over the EU, many of which have very skilled workers. To raise the competency of the workforce and with the upcoming changes to the CSCS scheme, it is expected that there will be a large demand for language and vocational training, particularly for the existing workforce. This trend will be most evident with the anticipated numbers of workers coming from new EU accession countries.

An identifiable trend is emerging where the larger construction firms are focusing more on knowledge and skills training with accrediting to a recognised level, with the CITB levy-able organisations usually in management taking NVQ’s and now more frequently Foundation Degrees.

As there will be an increase in people entering the construction industry – primarily to replace the high numbers of workers leaving the industry and to keep up with demand – there are countless points to be addressed in the near future. The needs of the industry are clearly changing, and it will be essential that the training framework changes too. It is widely accepted that the learning and development within the construction industry is an essential need if firms are to stay competitive and survive in today’s economic climate.