No quick fix for scaffolding’s big problem says Scaffolding Association’s president

Russell Maxwell-Smith, President of the Scaffolding Association, reflects on a challenging year and looks forward to making progress on skills and training in 2022.

As we approach the end of another year, it’s only natural that we reflect upon the months gone by. As with all industries, the construction industry has experienced a challenging year following the easing of lockdown restrictions in spring.

At a time when more skilled workers are leaving the sector than are being recruited to join it, relevant and accessible skills training is more important than ever to keep the industry moving forwards. The skills gap within the construction industry, including scaffolding, is no secret.

Traditionally the industry has attracted school-leavers and individuals who would stay in the same industry for their entire career. A recent report published by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) says that 37% of the construction workforce are over the age of 50 and estimates that 217,000 workers will need to be recruited into the industry over the next 5 years.

However, this isn’t to say that those who have already built careers in different industries shouldn’t be considered. In a research survey (1) conducted by the London Business School, it was found that 47% of those surveyed wanted to change their careers. Of this 47%, the majority were found to be between 18–34 years old. The career landscape as a whole is shifting and we are going to see a more diverse and fluid workforce moving forwards.

Evidently, there isn’t a quick fix for filling the skills gap within the construction industry. As well as the £7 million pledged by the Government earlier this year to support flexible apprenticeship opportunities, it will take commitment from employers and training providers who must collaborate to raise the standards of training and ensure that relevant training is accessible to those that need it.

Clearly, there is a need to attract people from outside the industry, however upskilling and providing training that can advance the ambitious individuals already working in the industry is just as crucial.

The proposals for the CITB Levy order, to be in place for three years (2022–2025), will support employers in ensuring the provision of training and development, the promotion of the construction industry as a great career choice, the identification of any skills gaps and the further improvement of occupational working standards within the construction industry as a whole.

As we look forward to 2022, the Scaffolding Association’s drive and focus will be to continue our commitment to champion our members and the issues that matter to them and their workforce; whether this be skills and training based or working to improve the standards of occupational Health & Safety.

Russell Maxwell-Smith




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