FIS, the trade body for the finishes and interiors sector, has launched its BuildME initiative, a new work experience programme created to line up suitable employers and FIS Approved Training Providers to help college learners get real industry experience. The exciting programme was introduced to young people and colleges at WorldSkills UK LIVE last week.

An ageing workforce, widening skill gap and decline in interest from younger generations are among the biggest challenges facing the construction industry today. The recent Construction Skills Network (CSN) report shows that the wider industry will need 36,000 new recruits per year from 2017 to 2021. In some specialist occupations, the need for new workers remains acute, with wood trades and interior fit-out highlighted as areas of particular concern. There is also the ongoing challenge of replacing an ageing workforce, which will become more pressing if Brexit stems the flow of mainly younger workers from abroad.

Through BuildME, FIS aims to match interested employers with suitable candidates, supporting the employer through a simplified process. Focus is on Basic Construction, Plastering, Drylining, Carpentry and Joinery, Interior Systems, and Painting and Decorating courses from Level 1 to 3, but FIS is committed to ensuring that good students from across construction find employment within the industry.

BuildME helps the employer (via a dedicated helpline and toolkit) to create a structured two-week work experience placement designed to give the candidate a real look into the industry, to see how their skills will be used, to work among their future colleagues and to meet with an employer who could serve as a first reference or, better still, a potential employer themselves. This work experience also has a whole range of benefits for an employer, including the ability to trial a potential new hire or apprentice and create mentoring experiences for current staff.

Iain McIlwee, FIS CEO, stated: “We do need to do more to attract talent, but we also need to identify and eradicate waste – an obvious example being the huge proportion of those who start Level 1 Diplomas in the construction sector that never work in industry. The beauty of this programme is its simplicity. The candidate gets some real-world experience and, in the process, we help to remove the fear of the unknown and to dispel some of the many myths associated with working in construction.

“From the employers’ side, who wouldn’t want to pick from the cream of the crop and ensure talented individuals, worth hanging on to, do not drift out of the sector. By simply removing the time and complexity associated with creating work experience opportunities, BuildME opens the doors (literally!) for employers to address this wastage and ensure the monies and resources spent on new entrants in construction trades is a genuine investment for the whole economy.”