The skills challenges facing the construction industry are well known. The sector continues to grow, but attracting and retaining highly-skilled talent remains a significant issue. The challenge is not just about articulating the skills that are needed today; there is a growing need anticipate the demand for skills 5,10 or 15 years down the line.

This is no easy task when we consider the rate of innovation within the industry: from the increased adoption of computer modelling to the use of modular building techniques; these innovations necessitate the deployment of a highly-skilled, adaptable and flexible workforce.

Ultimately, the construction industry needs access to a steady pipeline of highly-skilled talent to fuel a growing sector where demand for new construction projects is high. But to meet these challenges head on, the entire system of technical and professional education will need to work to work in collaboration with industry to deliver the training and the talent that our economy needs.

This is where the introduction of T-levels and the reforms to apprenticeship funding are hugely significant. Now, there is a real opportunity to raise the profile of technical and vocational education as a real alternative to academic based progression routes. The focus needs to be on attracting new talent, especially those that might never have considered a career in construction to begin with.

To achieve this, the transition period outlined in the Post-16 skills plan will be key. It has the potential to give learners an introduction to a sector, to increase their employability skills and set them on the path into a secure and successful career. Yet, the detail around how it will work in practice remains elusive…but this is where the construction industry is ahead of the game.

The development of a new: “Bridge into Construction” course has the potential to provide a blueprint for how a sector can attract new talent and develop an innovative entry-level career pathway. The course is a one year further education course developed in partnership between Build UK and the Collab Group of Colleges. The pilot will also allow the construction and further education sectors to trial an industry vocational route at least four years ahead of the timetable set out in the Post-16 Skills Plan.

The one year further education course will begin on 1 October 2017 and be piloted by two Collab Group Colleges. The course will provide a consistent level of training and competence and equip students with the foundational skills they need to embark on a construction apprenticeship. Learners will get to experience all elements of a construction project— from the tendering stage, through to design, construction and post-construction.

The course will also provide students with qualifications including the Level 1 Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment, and provide a strong foundation to successfully pursue a career in construction.

Both employers and education providers are excited about the potential of the course and the opportunities it provides to learners to gain real-world experience and increase their employability chances. By working in collaboration, education providers and employers are demonstrating how a new model can emerge that seeks to create the workforce that the construction industry needs both for now, and in the future.

The launch of Bridge into Construction will take place on: Thursday 28 September at Sheffield College City Campus. If you would like to find out more please contact: tom.lowe@collabgroup.co.uk