How we will train the next generation of tradespeople and tackle the skills gap is a question hanging over the construction sector. David Hall from British Gypsum outlines a new approach.

Based on figures in the CITB CSN report, annual growth of 2.9 per cent between 2015 and 2019 equates to demand for 224,000 tradespeople. This is at a time when further education colleges across the UK are facing uncertainty over funding.

Government spending cuts expected to raise £1 billion will be used to fund 3 million apprenticeship places by 2020. However, the Association of Colleges has stated that government cuts could impact adult education by 2020, after research has shown some 190,000 course places could be lost in 2015/2016, so it’s a time of great uncertainty for those providing training in the sector.

Formal training which leads to National Vocational Qualifications for Interior Systems is often not delivered by colleges due to the high costs of providing the training delivery, so informal training dominates specific sectors in the construction industry. The finishes and interiors sector is a typical example of this, especially for the training of installers of drylining, suspended ceilings, relocatable partitioning and raised access flooring.

This uncertainty in the sector is likely to cause issues in providing sufficient training provisions to meet the needs of the FIS 2020 Training Strategy, which aims to establish a sustainable training model that fits the need of the sector, in addition to supporting the circa. 23,000 tradespeople working in the finishes and interiors industry who don’t currently have a formal qualification.

Key findings from the Stockerl review into training provision for the interiors sector are at the heart of the 2020 strategy. This review calls for greater regionalised training delivery for specialist trades. This can only be achievable with greater collaborative working with manufacturers to support further education colleges and training providers to increase the number of apprenticeships and to raise the availability of formal training.

The recently approved specialist upskilling programme for Interior Systems drylining fixers and cold rolled formed steel framing installers opens up greater flexibility for employed and labour only subcontractors to achieve NVQ Level 2 within 12 months and attracts CITB grants for In-scope companies.

At British Gypsum, we have worked with federations and the CITB over many years to support qualification development and to create a model that can work for the interior sector apprenticeships in drylining fixing and finishing.

Through the evolution of routes to qualification and identifying the need for greater regionalised training, we have developed a strategy to support the FIS 2020 vision, in partnering with four colleges nationally for the delivery of drylining apprenticeships. The partners are South and City College Birmingham, Tyne Metropolitan College Newcastle (TMC), Barking and Dagenham College and CITB National Construction College at Inchinnan, Glasgow.

Course tutors at partner colleges will take part in ongoing CPD to understand current site practices and develop their ongoing knowledge of the finishes and interiors sector. This will ensure the course delivery aligns exactly to what subcontractors need from apprentices through formal training.

Learning resources specific to the qualification – from presentations to ‘how to’ videos – will be available for colleges to use through the British Gypsum Thistle Partnership Learning Hub, which currently has content on plastering up to NVQ Level 2. This will have been updated to include all interior systems learning material by August 2015, ready for the new academic year.

The focus adopted in working with colleges nationally will allow British Gypsum Technical Academies to support training through the specialist upskilling programme to NVQ Level 2 Interior Systems drylining fixer. This programme can be delivered to trainees over 18 years of age who are relatively new to the industry, as well as be used to identify training for more experienced trades people who have identified specific areas to develop through the training plan in order to gain the qualification.

Through our college  partner initiative, we are creating a model for other manufacturers to follow in creating a wider network of training provision. This is something that our sector desperately needs.