Education, Education, Education – GCSEs and A ‘Levels in Construction

Education, Education, Education – GCSEs and A ‘Levels in Construction

05th December 2016

The UK’s largest privately owned construction company, Laing O’Rourke, has recently revealed that it would like to see the introduction of GCSEs and A ‘Levels in construction in an attempt to address the industry’s burgeoning skills shortage.  The skills shortage in the construction sector is something we’ve reported on several times already, with articles on the importance to the industry of the modern apprenticeship scheme and last week’s news that it’s now possible to follow a degree course in demolition.  With the whole nation uncertain as to what the future holds in the wake of the summer’s shock Brexit vote, we can no longer rely on overseas workers being available to plug the gaps caused by the skills shortage, so addressing the problem directly is more important now than ever. 

At present, children can learn Design, Engineer and Construct (DEC) as part of the curriculum but only 42 schools (out of a possible 3.401 state funded secondary schools in the UK) actually offer the DEC curriculum.  DEC is an accredited learning programme for secondary school age students and was developed in a bid to create and inspire the next generation of Built Environment professionals here in the UK.  It’s offered as a project-based learning activity and applies pure academic subjects to the latest construction industry practices and should provide the youngsters who follow this course with real-world practical experience and employability skills that would benefit the industry as a whole.

The recommendation makes up one part of Laing O’Rourke’s Ten Point Plan to overcome the UK’s construction and infrastructure skills gap.  The full Ten Point Plan is as follows:

  1. Flex the government’s planned Apprenticeship Levy and reduce delays to approval of ‘Trailblazer Apprenticeship’ standards
  2. Create regionally focused skills pipelines
  3. Increase availability of Russell Group university standard part-time degree apprenticeships
  4. Review options for career transitioning apprenticeships
  5. Introduce GCSEs and A-levels in Design, Engineer and Construct (DEC) disciplines
  6. Promote collaboration between industry and government in order to deliver a broader range of improved careers advice for those who wish to enter the construction and engineering field
  7. Commit the industry to measurable improvements in diversity
  8. Seize the opportunity of the new Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
  9. Support the creation of a single construction and infrastructure skills body
  10. Facilitate the ongoing professional development of a directly employed workforce

The creator of the DEC curriculum, Alison Watson believes that the UK “could be a world leader in build environment education” but things that we’ve spent too long focusing on delivering student engagement on quick wins instead of on long-term impact. 

Another recommendation by Laing O’Rourke is that the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) merges with the Engineering Construction Training Board and play a bigger role in future offerings. 

The chronic skills gap is one of the biggest challenges faced by the construction and infrastructure sector right now and so far, the focus has been on analysing the problems this causes.  However, concentrating on delivering solutions that would address this problem is the only way in which to address the problem and move forward into the future with confidence in the UK construction industry.