Skills shortages are affecting projects across the country. Deborah Gore, HR director of the Encon Group, looks at how partnership working in the supply chain can broker employment opportunities and bring much-needed skilled labour to the finishes and interiors sector.

Deborah Gore Encon HRSkills shortages in our sector are going to impact on projects across the country. While we need to support proper apprentice schemes, simply handing out grants is not the answer.

One suggestion has been that public sector contracts are only let to those companies demonstrating that they have a robust training programme in place to address skills shortages at all levels.

Most manufacturers in our sector have first class training facilities and offer many modules. In response, the industry must demonstrate greater uptake in accepting new products and techniques designed to speed up installation times and replace older skills.

The finishes and interiors sector appears to lag behind other countries in accepting newer techniques, and this offers an easy route into our market for overseas competitors now here actively looking for work and bringing their own skilled labour. We all need to embrace new technology, but not for the sake of it. We must use new products and methods only where relevant, not just to show we know they are available.

This needs to come from the very top of companies and become part of business culture. At Encon and Nevill Long we’re improving our talent pipeline by creating job opportunities for apprentices and graduates, attracting people into the industry at  all levels.

Our first academy training centre opened in May 2013. Between then and July this year, 705 employees have trained there. A second academy in east London is under construction.

We are committed from the top to improving skills and bringing in people from disadvantaged backgrounds to show they can have a good career in our industry.

This is why we helped set up a drylining training centre at Brixton Prison. Supported by Knauf, Be Onsite, Land Securities, Lend Lease and Bounceback, the centre offers 70 people in custody the opportunity to take the Dry Lining Diploma Level 2 course every year.

As a member of the  supply chain, we are in a position to broker this employment and help supply much-needed skilled labour to the interiors sector.


Deborah Gore

HR Director of the  Encon Group