Opinion: If we're going to build the 300,000 new homes a year we need, we're going to have to get the next generation building

Pauline Traetto
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In the Budget, the Chancellor renewed his intention to deliver 300,000 new homes every year and set aside £34m for construction skills and training. But without sufficient support from the construction industry, the government will struggle to successfully hit its target.

As director of BRE Academy, the training extension of a organisation that researches ways in which to improve our built environment, my main concern is how the money set aside for training will be allocated.

We need to target young people, to secure the future of the construction industry for generations to come.

One of the first things we need to do is make the building sector more attractive, showcasing the excellent opportunities and life experiences on offer. Results from a survey commissioned by BRE Academy found that 91 per cent of those who worked in construction believed those working outside it had the wrong impression the industry.

We need to target young people, to secure the future of the construction industry for generations to come.

This is why improving the general understanding is key to promoting this career path to young people. The image problem suffered by the construction industry has long required more drastic action, and there is motivation to change perceptions, but sectors of the industry are only reaching out to their respective silos, without enough impact.

BRE has worked through involvement in initiatives such as George Clarke’s MOBIE (Ministry of Building Innovation + Education), and it would be refreshing to see more companies reaching out to the next generation.

We also need to identify which key skills require dedicated training courses to ensure we’re giving people the best possible education and guidance. The Chancellor also announced a £20m investment to help further education colleges introduce the new T level qualifications.

This renewed focus on technical skills is welcomed, but the qualifications are heavily reliant on practical work placements, and the government needs to ensure these are sufficiently available within the construction industry, perhaps by introducing levies or similar incentives for businesses. Additionally, the qualification needs to be promoted clearly within schools and to parents to help them understand it.

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The government is in a good position to help the industry, so long as finances are distributed to deliver training packages that will really support those with potential to thrive in a construction career.

I hope the money put aside in the Budget will be invested in independent trade skills and learning providers, rather than creating new governmental departments or new institutions that offer much of the same. While 300,000 new homes is a good target, what we have at the moment is an overview; we need a fully detailed and strategised plan of exactly what kinds of homes will be built in which areas, and how to achieve best practice and quality.

I would like to see the government come together and support schools in promoting construction as a rewarding and financially stable career path for young people to follow, as well as helping incentivise those already working in the industry to stay and improve their knowledge and understanding of the trade they operate in.

At the BRE Academy, we will continue to create and develop courses to equip people both young and old with the skills they need to thrive in the industry. But we hope that government policy will help us make a career in construction more appealing to young people so we can build more, and better quality, homes.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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