Plugging the construction industry skills gap

LEARNING THE TRADE: Kyle Grigg, an apprentice at SMD, Poole

Skills shortages are set to hit the construction industry over the next few years.

A 1.7 % sector growth forecast for five years until 2021 means youth is desperately needed, but the number of workers retiring is outstripping new blood.

Dorset-based SMD, which designs, manufactures and installs metal decking systems and associated concrete work, is acutely aware of the problem.

The company runs an apprenticeship programme, but is also looking at other schemes to plug the skills gap.

SMD’s Business Development Director Dan Williams said: “We are undoubtedly facing challenging times – and this skills shortfall is likely to be magnified in the mid-term.

“Continuing growth is obviously excellent, but we are going to need a new generation of construction industry workers to keep up with demand.

“At SMD our apprenticeship scheme brings in young people to learn a trade and gain vital experience while still studying – youngsters who may otherwise have been lost to the industry.

“Our current apprentice Kyle Grigg is thriving in his work as a computer-aided design (CAD) technician and we highly value the skills he is learning in his growing role in the company.

“However, we are also finding that many young people coming out of schools and colleges are either not really fit for the work environment or simply not seeking a career in this industry.”

Dan, whose company is one of only a handful of British firms that manufactures and installs its own steel decking, said it was incumbent on the Government to set up systems to ensure young people were better able to start their working lives and subsequently cope with the ongoing pressures.

He added: “We are also seeking to develop our existing workforce by supporting them to acquire the new skill sets so vital as our industry changes with the times.

“We must plan for tomorrow by acting today. Anyone not seriously seeking futureproof solutions may well find themselves in serious difficulty.”

SMD’s HR Manager Helen Rivero said she was seeking to establish better connections with schools and colleges.

She added: “I want to make them more aware of the company’s apprenticeship scheme as an excellent route to a good career in the construction industry.

“Many schools are very much focussed on academic achievement, but there are a great many students whose key talents and individual strengths would be more suited to vocational learning.

“Identifying those young people could well be crucial in establishing their personal fulfilment and the successful continuation of our industry workforce.”

Southampton-born apprentice Kyle Grigg joined SMD 19 months ago after finishing a level 2 engineering course at Bournemouth & Poole College.

The 19-year-old said: “I was looking for an apprenticeship and was lucky enough to join SMD as a junior CAD technician.

“I am enjoying it immensely; no two days are the same and learning through first-hand experience is so much better than learning theory in the class room.”

Kyle, whose work has included designs for student accommodation in Manchester, hotels in Liverpool and Southampton and at Heathrow Airport, has done a level 3 B-Tech exam and is currently studying for a level 2 NVQ.

Employing more than 100 people, Tower Park, Poole-headquartered SMD has worked on some of the country’s most iconic buildings including The Shard and The Olympic Village in London and Manchester’s Etihad Stadium.



Notes for editors:

Data taken from Industry Insights, Construction Skills Network Forecasts 2017–2021 compiled by the Construction Industry Training Board

Structural Metal Decks (SMD) was founded in 1987 and is based in Poole, Dorset. It designs, manufactures and installs metal decking systems for projects across the world. It employs more than 100 people – some based in India and Dubai. SMD has worked on some of the world’s most iconic buildings, including the Shard and The Olympic Village in London and Manchester’s Etihad Stadium.

For more information contact Ed Baker at Deep South Media on 01202 534487 or 07788392965. Or Cliff Moore at Deep South Media on 01202 534487 or 07469158458