SCAFFOLDER TRAINING: A catalyst for change

The access and scaffolding sector is facing a critical skills and training shortage. The CITB is pulling out of direct training and recent research has found that there is not sufficient capacity to meet demand. Stacey Underhill from the Scaffolding Association explains how it plans to deliver an industry-led training solution.

Last year the Scaffolding Association commissioned research into the availability of training for new entrants wanting to start a career in the access and scaffolding sector. As part of this research, 24 training centres from across the UK were contacted and the results proved very worrying:

  • Four centres were unreachable, despite a series of attempts to contact them
  • Two centres were unable to offer scheduled future training dates at the time of contact
  • 10 centres were able to offer scheduled future training dates but with a wait ranging from four to 12 weeks.

Of the 30 potential course dates being offered around the UK across a 12-week period, only six were scheduled to be run in the London area and 13 were being offered in the North of England. How can one of the most project-critical sectors in the construction sector hope to deliver the service the industry needs without an accessible training regime? Well, our 300 plus members told us; with great difficulty. Access and scaffolding needs an effective and sustainable flow of new entrants and the continuing development of skills among the existing workforce.

Even the most recent survey for the main contract representative body, Build UK, found that labour availability issues impacted on contractors’ business performance, with 20 per cent saying that labour shortages had resulted in the late completion of work and a third saying

that it had prevented them bidding for work. Rising labour and material costs have increased overall building costs, with 42 per cent of firms reporting an overall increase in costs.

Following the construction industry’s call for reform, the CITB has set out its strategy, which includes proposals to exit direct delivery of training through the National Construction College, the main provider of scaffold and access training within the UK. In November last year Dave Mosely, the NASC training director and CISRS manager, wrote to NASC members and said he feared that the uncertainty in the interim period could have a negative effect on course availability.

Clearly, existing capacity is not enough to meet demand and new resources are required to ensure that the skills the construction industry expects from the access and scaffolding sector are available.

While the Association has sought to participate in existing structures and help shape the skills and training debate in scaffolding, obstacles have been placed in front of us and prevented our members receiving the recognition they deserve.

Concerns about training capacity, and the direction of travel from the existing groups claiming to represent access and scaffolding, has led the Association to establish the Access Industry Training Scheme (AITS). AITS is an employer-led training solution that will provide increasing capacity and new opportunities for both our members and the wider industry. It will help to satisfy the training and skills development needs for the access and scaffolding industry.

The first training course was held last year and a schedule of courses are now available to access and scaffolding contractors to boost skills and technical capability of their employees and subcontractors.

Through AITS, we will be able to develop structured career pathways that are easily accessible and offer continuing opportunities for personal growth and development. With AITS, the industry will become a far more attractive prospect to attract, train and retain new entrants.

Training in the scaffolding and access industry has stagnated. It’s time to break down the existing system and build something that is both fit for purpose today and future-proof for tomorrow. This is why AITS is stepping forward and turning concepts into reality.


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