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Skills audits for construction and engineering published


The results of the first reports commissioned in the wake of the National Skills Task Force to examine industry sector skills shortages in detail have been published today, revealing the true extent of skills supply and demand in the construction and engineering sectors.

The two reports are the first in a series of 15 sector profiles which will take place every other year, gathering information from National Training Organisations (NTOs), employers and careers services in the form of a 'Skills Dialogue', formed as a result of a recommendation from the National Skills Task Force to set up a programme of skills dialogues across the major industrial and business sectors. The resulting reports, which also draw on existing information available from research undertaken for the National Skills Task Force, will form the basis of an action plan for National Training Organisations which they will use together to establish targets for employers to improve skills.

Key findings from the two reports are:

  • Construction: The construction industries, which represent a significant share of the UK economy, rely heavily on highly-skilled craft workers and technicians. Currently over half of all workers hold NVQ level 3 or above, and a quarter hold NVQ level 1 or below, although numbers of NVQs being achieved remain relatively stable - work placements need to be given a higher priority. The sector is currently experiencing difficulties in replacing retired workers with young people, who are chosing to stay on in education. In the future, skilled craft skills are likely to be in decline, while demand for skills related to managerial and professional positions is likely to grow. The report also highlighted a growing need for customer-focussed staff. The construction industry in general is used to adapting to skills shortages because of the cyclical nature of the work involved.

  • Engineering: There is strong demand for skills, especially in the fast-growing electronics and telecoms sectors, although sector as a whole has shrunk - 1.5 million jobs have been lost since 1971. There are great contrasts within the sector, as a strong performer in the economy (electronics) but also a poor performer (metals manufacturing, moulding and fabrication). Skills requirements include the increased use of technology and use of new materials, with globalisation and new working practices also having an effect. The number of engineering employees with a vocational qualification to at least GCSE grade C is continually growing and currently represents over 80% of the workforce - 46,000 NVQ awards were made in engineering in 1998/1999. Although there are significant numbers of qualified people, both Modern Apprenticeships and Degree programmes are losing students to IT-related occupations, are failing to attract significant numbers of women and don't develop personal and transferable skills significantly. The role of managers and supervisors is also increasingly recognised as important.

    Andy Powell
    NTO National Council chief executive Andy Powell welcomed the reports and called for organisations involved in learning and skills provision to use the analysis to better inform their strategic planning: "The report's significance and value lies in the involvement of employers in identifying and clarifying the skills needs specific to their sector, and outlining the necessary steps to address these needs....the aim is to achieve a better match between learning and skills provision and skills demand from each industry sector, and improve the match between people's career aspirations and the reality of the workplace."

    He added: "The report's findings have clear implications for the planning of publicly funded education, training and careers provision for young people and adults. They also highlight areas to which the industry sectors will need to respond, such as improving work placements or in-company training opportunities and raising their sectors' image. This is the first stage of what must be an ongoing dialogue between employers, government, the Learning and Skills Council and other key partner organisations to ensure the integration of the reports' findings in the strategic planning process for learing and skills and workforce development plans."

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