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Mark Farrar


Chief Executive

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Going for skills gold


Mark Farrar tells the community how the olympic opportunity was leveraged for construction training.
The London 2012 Games are a hot topic, and rightly so. But while the athletes and iconic venues attract a lot of attention, one less reported but similarly important aspect of the Games, is the skills strategy that was put in place to aid one of this country's gold-standard industries: the construction and built environment sector.
Vast amounts of work have gone in to ensure a lasting legacy of expertise in London's olympic boroughs and beyond. Even before work began on the Olympic Park, a plan was put in place by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to ensure that the build had the right ingredients to have a positive impact on skills within the construction industry that remains for years after the closing ceremony.
The training infrastructure created for the host boroughs in East London used combined labour market intelligence from our Construction Skills Network (CSN), the ODA and regular dialogue with local employers, to ensure that skills delivered matched demand from businesses in the area. This, in turn, made sure that every trainee who was involved in the build enhanced their own employment opportunities and that value was added to the industry.
Once the 'big build' programme on the Olympic Park was under way a two-tier training programme was delivered by the National Construction College to provide a boost not just to workers' core construction skills, but also to their long-term employment prospects. While tier one provided a general introduction to specialist construction operations, tier two built upon these capabilities to prepare delegates for a career in the industry.
"The opportunity presented by the games to produce a powerful and lasting skills legacy in London is especially important in these difficult economic times."
The implementation of this programme has had a fantastic impact on the industry's current and future workforce. Figures from the ODA show that programmes set up to maximise the employment legacy have helped more than 1,580 previously unemployed and local people gain work on the Olympic Park, with more than 3,500 training places being taken up and 457 apprentices gaining valuable experience as part of a world-class operation.
In addition, having listened and responded to the industry, we made a significant contribution to this legacy. For example, nearly 700 people have achieved a Construction Plant Competence Card (CPCS) – the widely recognised 'passport' needed to work in the British plant sector - at the Olympics' Eton Manor training centre. A total of 41 ex-offenders have also received training at the Waltham Forest Training Centre in East London, helping them on the road to transforming their lives for the better.
The opportunity presented by the games to produce a powerful and lasting skills legacy in London is especially important in these difficult economic times. Our CSN figures show that, despite the industry performing better than expected in 2010, the sector is expected to contract by 1% by the end of 2011 which could have a detrimental impact as valuable skills are lost from the sector.  
This means that we must take every opportunity we can to deliver the right skills for growth, both nationally and locally. Every project needs to have skills and training opportunities right at its core. And whilst builds on the scale of the Olympic Park don’t come around very often, the skills strategy that was put in place – and the legacy left as a result – are a fantastic example of how businesses and individuals can benefit when the delivery is right.

Mark Farrar is Chief Executive of CITB-ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council and Industry Training Board for the construction industry. Mark has had a 30 year career spanning roles in HM Armed Forces and both the private and public sectors. Following roles with Barclays Bank and Norwich Union, Mark moved into the public sector and joined Cefas, a Government-owned science and environmental research body, in 2000. He was promoted to Chief Executive there in 2004 and joined CITB-ConstructionSkills in 2008

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Mark Farrar

Chief Executive

Read more from Mark Farrar

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