Closing the skills gap at speed and scale

Audience at InstallerSHOW 2024

The skills gap is a burning issue for construction, both at present and for the foreseeable future. So, there was strong interest in the panel debate on the topic of the changing landscape for industry skills, held in the elemental Arena at this year’s InstallerSHOW.

The debate explored the reasons why the industry urgently needs to build a net zero workforce and how it can recruit, retain, and (re)train the skilled professionals needed.

In particular, the session considered the employment responsibilities and potential cost-burden likely to be placed on small construction businesses at the heart of retrofit delivery.

View from the C-suite

Bringing a wealth of industry experience to the panel, John Hancock Chief Operating Officer at Wolseley Group, has worked across multiple business units in his time there since 2010, including operations and sales, inventory and commercial.

His view from the C-suite on workforce competence and the skills agenda only served to heighten the sense of urgency around net zero, building the business case for training.

In terms of market growth, Chief Executive at Constructing Excellence Midlands, Andrew Carpenter also sits on the government’s Timber in Construction Working Group and was able to draw useful comparisons with the rise in popularity of wood buildings.

From digital twins to diversity

Digitalisation of the built environment and construction industry as a whole represents another key opportunity for the workforce, explained Dr Bola Abisogun OBE, Founder, Digital Twin Skills Academy.

A Chartered Quantity Surveyor by profession, Dr Abisogun also describes himself as an unapologetic industry disruptor. He was awarded an OBE in 2018 for Services to Diversity and Young People in the construction industry and his thought-provoking insights prompted debate around the need for an image makeover on the part of the industry.

Positive about people development

As Policy Officer at Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA), Paul Amann brought a valuable public-sector perspective to the discussion.

He very much encouraged the industry to celebrate its successes, citing the progress achieved by LCRCA in Liverpool, for example, where he leads on development of the Low Carbon Skills for Growth Action Plan and subsequent Green Jobs and Skills Action Plan.

Also at pains to end the discussion on a positive note was Clayton Browne, Founder and MD of both CB Heating and the Heat Pump Installer Network (HPIN). As a time-served heating engineer, he has personally gone from operating as a one-man-band installer to being at the helm of a multi-million-pound business recently acquired by EDF Energy.

Having created the largest network of trained heat pump installers in the UK, Browne talked with passion and experience about how you truly can achieve the art of the possible when it comes to investing in people at the scale and speed needed to close the skills gap.