Work on a project to create an innovative online digital “brokerage” platform to link prospective trainees, employers and clients with construction training courses has begun, supported by £827,000 funding from Innovate UK.
The SkillsPlanner platform is being coordinated by Ethos VO, a collective of “social entrepreneurs”, and core project partners – which will support the £1.3m project financially and in kind – include the Thames Tideway project, Camden Council, recruiter Good People, Islington and Westminster councils, Plymouth University, not-for-profit membership organisation the Association of Colleges and web developer Seme4.
The two-year development stage will focus on creating a working system for the London construction industry, with contractors Bam, Costain, Dragados, Morgan Sindall and Laing O’Rourke, along with clients Crossrail, The Crown Estate and HS2, providing data to be used in the planner.
Ethos VO’s spokesman and PR manager, Paul Wilkinson, told Construction Manager: “This is a significant step as now all the finance is agreed with Innovate UK. The contracts have been exchanged and the collaborative agreements have been signed with all the partners. The project can now move forward.”
The CITB has also been supporting SkillsPlanner through the provision of data, and will continue to do so. But Construction Manager understands that the training body no longer has an anticpated role as a partner involved with the various advisory groups.
Rebecca Lovelace, SkillsPlanner project director, told Construction Manager: “The CITB has chosen to participate in SkillsPlanner purely by providing data, but the door is open for them to play a greater role. At present they are undergoing a lot of consultant activities, so they are not able to commit to working closely with one partner. At the moment it is not appropriate for the CITB to more fully engage with us.”
Gillian Econopouly, CITB’s head of policy and research, told Construction Manager: “From the outset, CITB determined that sharing relevant data on skills in the construction sector was the most appropriate way to be involved in the SkillsPlanner project, rather than being a formal partner. We are continuing to collaborate on this basis.”
It is understood that the CITB has asked Ethos to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), having already actively committed to the sharing of data, although this is yet to be signed.
Last week it was reported that the CITB was set to cut around 26 jobs, with more to follow next year, as the organisation continues to reorganise. It is also facing an uncertain future after BIS announced plans for an apprenticeship levy to be paid by “every big company” in England.
Under SkillsPlanner, data will be integrated and linked to enable skills providers to define existing provision and develop demand-led training, while businesses will benefit from more sustainable procurement of local labour, reduced resource and HR costs.
Local authorities will be able to collaborate on the design and delivery of local skills provision, and local job brokerage initiatives to operate more efficiently and effectively.
Partners on the SkillsPlanner believe that the application will reduce brokerage costs and bridge the mismatch between skills supply and skills availability.
Mark Booth, employment services delivery manager at Camden Council, said: “This is exactly what London needs. There is a real solution here using a very collaborative model. We need to better understand skills supply and demand.”
While in a joint statement, Louise Townsend, sustainable business director at Morgan Sindall and Trudy Langton-Freeman, HR business partner at Costain, said: “The skills shortage in the sector is rapidly becoming a serious impediment to the industry’s ability to deliver above and beyond what is expected of it. We must work together as an industry to define and predict the timely provision of these industry-critical skills. SkillsPlanner provides a collaborative opportunity to do this.”
Lovelace, added: “SkillsPlanner is an Ethos ‘perfect storm’. It demonstrates how a genuinely collaborative approach can create an economically viable solution to a complex urban challenge, resulting in a positive social outcome.”