Welsh construction’s golden opportunity

Welsh construction has, says Leigh Hughes, a once in a generation chance to influence curriculum reform.

Leigh Hughes is CITB Wales’ Nation Council Chair, CSR Director for Bouygues Construction in the UK

As CITB Wales’ Nation Council Chair I know how rewarding construction careers can be.

 

I’ve seen work by a range of stakeholders eager to inform girls and boys of the diverse careers Welsh construction has to offer.

And I know many opportunities exist: CITB’s Construction Skills Network (CSN) forecast shows that 6,500 jobs will be created in the Welsh sector between now and 2023. However, it is widely accepted that industry needs to improve its image and attract more talent.

The best place to do this is at school which is why I am urging construction businesses across Wales to engage in the Welsh Government’s curriculum reform. Here’s a chance to show girls, boys, teachers, parents and careers advisors that construction is a rewarding career choice – and to co-design a modern, exciting curriculum fit for the 21st Century.

 

It is crucial that the new curriculum is innovative. A good example of cutting edge learning has been the Go Construct Experience “Buildathons” which were led by WRW Construction and recently took place across Wales. Industry professionals, teachers and pupils created construction projects using Minecraft, a technology programme I could not have dreamed about when I was at school. The enthusiasm from all participants was a joy to behold.

The Go Construct Educate project which Bouygues manages on behalf of an industry collaboration also aims to inspire young people to consider a construction career. It provides a complete toolkit for teachers, lesson plans, delivery presentations and resources for children to use. The lessons are focussed around the STEAM agenda (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths).

These resources provide a meaningful classroom experience for children and culminate in a project allowing pupils to apply the skills they’ve learnt. Resources cover ages 5-16 years, including Welsh Baccalaureate; provision has also been made for alternative education.

Feedback from teachers has been pleasing; partnerships between school and industry have been established. Imagine this kind of learning developed and implemented on a larger scale in Wales. And imagine the long-term impact it could have on bridging the skills gap.

 

As it stands, the Welsh curriculum has considerable scope for improvement in terms of construction learning. Historically there haven’t been many opportunities for pupils, particularly girls, to enjoy practical learning and on-site experiences. Industry has been perceived as a career for those who are not academically gifted. Career advice has often overlooked the range of roles available for both sexes and the well-paid construction routes and jobs on offer.

I’m pleased to say that the Welsh Government has already listened to the construction and built environment sector in the development of their draft statutory guidance.

I welcome their acknowledgement of the need for a more practical, vocational skills focus. Their information on gender stereotyping and mental health, along with a willingness to engage with industry experts augurs well.

And CITB Wales welcomes the references to learners developing an awareness of all post-16 routes including work, academic and vocational education.

An understanding of the potential of digital skills is, of course, crucial to the development of students across Wales. The draft curriculum addresses criticisms that the old curriculum was out of date – analogue in a digital world.

CITB Wales’ particularly welcomes Science and Technology as one of the Areas of Learning Experience (AoLEs). We’re also glad to see the link between Science and Technology in schools and jobs and the future economy of Wales.

We hope the curriculum addresses some of the key findings in CITB’s Unlocking Construction’s Digital Future report, particularly around ensuring the current and future workforce has the right digital skills.

 

This is truly a time of great potential for construction learning in Wales. Over the last year CITB has worked closely with Qualifications Wales on the sector review of construction and the built environment. The new qualifications alone have the potential to transform the construction sector. So there’s a great deal to be positive about.

It would, however, be amiss of me to say that there haven’t been difficulties in the Welsh construction sector lately. The loss of big, highly publicised projects and a number of companies enduring financial difficulties may have sowed doubt in some minds about construction’s appeal. But construction remains a good long-term career bet as our CSN figures show.

Initiatives like Encon Construction’s “Career Changers – Women into Construction Project” are encouraging more women to join the sector. And industry’s strides towards diversity and modernisation should appeal to the tech-savvy generation.

 

So, whether you’re a micro business, an innovation centre, a regional or local business, I urge you to get in touch with Government and tell them what construction has to offer. Let’s show them that learning can be fun, let’s raise aspirations and awareness of construction. Think of the potential benefits for our young people, for communities and the economy as a whole.

 

This is a golden opportunity to influence the Welsh construction workforce of the future.

 

Let’s take it.

 

All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

While you’re here, we’ve got something to ask you: will you join us?

We’re working every day to bring the right people together and generate the ideas to make Wales a world-leading force.

We’re independent of government and political parties. We provide a much-needed space for open, transparent debate about the ideas that can make Wales better.

To continue to do this, we need people like you to join us.

Join us today and you’ll be supporting vital work that’s making our country better than ever.

Find out more