The Gypsum Products Development Association (GPDA), which represents the UK and Ireland’s plasterboard manufacturers, says its members support the call for a new national skills strategy that will encourage stakeholders from across the industry to work together and deliver real solutions to the problem.

GPDA Secretary, Crispin Dunn-Meynell, comments: “Our member-manufacturers already play an active role in the training of thousands of students for the interiors sector at their own Technical Academies and through close collaboration with further education colleges. However, it’s clear from the findings of the Stockerl Review that more needs to be done to avert a skills crisis which threatens to slow potential growth in our sector and delay the delivery of much-needed homes and infrastructure.”

According to the Review 1,500 new entrants into the interiors sector are required every year. Providing greater regionalised delivery of training was identified as a step towards meeting this requirement. To address this, GPDA member-manufacturers are forging new partnerships with colleges around the UK to give apprentices access to more local training programmes.

Innovative training strategies are also being developed by the gypsum industry, including CPD practical sessions for course tutors and online learning resources and lesson plans to assist student development and keep lecturers up to date with the latest gypsum-based products and systems.

“As well as supporting the development of new tradespeople into the industry, these initiatives allow our members’ own academies to focus on delivering specialist upskilling programmes (SUP) for Dry Lining Fixers looking to gain their NVQ Level 2 qualification,” explains Crispin Dunn-Meynell. Supporting the upskilling of employed and labour-only sub-contractors in their specific trade was among the recommendations of the Stockerl Review. As a further incentive, SUPs attract CITB grants for in scope companies to cover company’s cost of developing a skilled/qualified workforce.

Manufacturers are also working with Industry Federations and the CITB in the development of Trailblazers for Interior trades in readiness for the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017. Trailblazers are employer led apprenticeship training programmes that meet the needs of employers in developing highly skilled tradespeople for the future.

Mr Dunn-Meynell concluded: “A recent report by a government commission said cross-industry apprenticeships are failing to deliver for young people in England, with over 5,000 fewer apprenticeship starts by under-19s in 2014/15 compared to 2010/11.  Through their continued support for apprentice-based training, either directly or in partnership with colleges and industry federations, GPDA member-manufacturers are helping to develop career opportunities within the construction industry and the skills this sector so desperately needs.”

The GPDA represents the four major gypsum board and plaster manufacturers: British Gypsum, Knauf, and Siniat in Britain, and Gyproc in Ireland.