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Essential skills in construction

As one of the UK’s largest employers, the construction industry needs to bring in over a quarter of a million workers to meet UK demand by 2026. 

Beyond the shortfall in numbers lies the shortage of skilled workers: both in technical skills and non-role specific essential skills. 83% report the strain from a lack of skilled workers, while getting the candidates with in-demand skills like teamwork, communication and problem-solving is proving difficult to obtain. APM recently described the situation as ‘worsening’, with project managers concerned about delivering projects successfully in their sector and region.

Like practically all industries, construction, engineering and infrastructure are experiencing rapid change due to automation and technology. These new technologies are estimated to automate up to 66% of tasks, making the creation of multidisciplinary roles focusing on higher value, non-routine tasks, and the associated skills, a priority. 

The how and why of essential skills

Skills Builder works with a number of businesses in the construction and infrastructure space, including Amey, Morgan Sindall, Higgins, Guinness Partnership, Breedon Cement. 

By focusing on essential skills like problem-solving, communication, and creativity, businesses can improve the quality of work on job sites and increase productivity. For example, construction workers who are able to solve problems efficiently and communicate effectively with their team members are more likely to complete projects on time and within budget. Those with good levels of creativity skills are more likely to generate innovative ideas and solutions to complex problems. Liaising with teams across different sites and activities can be more productive, such as by effective note taking, improved customer service or accurate needs analysis. 

Essential Skills Tracker research has revealed the benefits associated with higher levels of essential skills. Individuals are less likely to be unemployed, or out of work and education, and for those furthest from education and employment in our society, essential skills in a portfolio with basic skills are associated with social mobility and escaping the Skills Trap. 

Sarah Hale, Social Value Manager at Amey, commented: “At Amey, we see the importance of ensuring everyone has the opportunity to develop their Essential Skills, whether that be employees or young people within our communities. The framework provides access to valuable and transferable skills, which are vital to an individual’s development, and it has enabled us to really demonstrate the impact of our programmes.” 

Case study: Building a talent pipeline at Higgins

Higgins Partnerships is one part of Higgins Group, an award-winning, family-run construction company with over 50 years' experience in major housing developments.

Higgins, a leader in construction, has been working with Skills Builder in outreach and recruitment. More recently, Higgins has turned their attention to their Management Trainee programme, which offers a pathway to apprenticeships, and they're now focusing on using the Universal Framework to attract a wider range of talented candidates to all their apprenticeship roles. 

Higgins social value and HR team aim to diversify their talent pools by crafting clear and compelling job descriptions that resonate with potential applicants from diverse backgrounds using an essential skills approach. Team members are going to be trained to incorporate the Universal Framework's language into their job adverts, which will support them to clearly define the essential skills needed for each role, making it easier for potential candidates to assess their suitability.

By expanding their use of the Universal Framework, Higgins hopes to:

  • Attract a broader pool of qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds.
  • Elevate the quality of their applicant pool.
  • Streamline their recruitment process, saving time and resources.

“We understand how important these highly transferable skills are at every stage of life and through our partnership we are really pleased to have seen the difference of embedding these skills through our apprenticeship programmes. We introduce them right from the recruitment process which helps to create a real focus on the development of the essential skills that support future progression for our new entrants to the business.” commented Amy Reynolds, Director of ESG at Higgins Partnerships. 

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