Rumford Club debate 16 November 2016: “Industry demand for manpower: an analysis of future manpower and skills availability”

Mike Hammond (the new chair of the Rumford Club) welcomed everyone to the 2016-2017 season, when the Club will be marking its 70th anniversary.

In 1946 there was a statist Government in place, doing such radical things as setting up the NHS and the Welfare State.

All change in 2016: the Government does not fund many industry-wide initiatives at all – most have to be funded by industry. What was done for the greater public good is now often done by those prepared to pay, for private benefit.

The challenge of this is that no one organisation has all the information, and this can lead to a disjointed approach.

We will be addressing this issue during this speaker season.

The challenges of skills shortages

Over the coming years there will be a dearth of some trades (such as H&V and ACR) and excess of other trades (such as plumbers) to meet demand. Demographics (baby boomers), the lack of apprentices coming into the industry and the inability of Trade Associations to apply pressure on the Government all play their part in choking supply.

Skillcard is the industry recognised smartcard for the mechanical sector of the building engineering services industry, partner to the Construction Skills Certification Scheme. Skillcard plays a significant role in upholding standards in health and safety, for example, and around 60% of building sites require such cards.

However, there’s a disaster looming, as evidenced by the Skillcard data.

For instance, while there is the need for 170 ductwork installers, only 25 are being trained right now. There are practically no Level 3 Commissioning Engineers, meaning that the industry has to rely on Level 2, which effectively de-skills the all-important role of commissioning. There is a decent supply of people working in H&V and ACR at Level 2 and below, but these are very low qualifications.

The bulk of Skillcard managers are 45-55 years old and this situation indicates future shortages.

The need to upskill

Demand is increasing on the sector for improved skills to meet the carbon challenge. For example, the Passivhausset default zoom sizeset default zoom sizeset default zoom sizeset default zoom size standard demands high skills sets.

The building services industry needs to recognise its role in educating its workforce to learn technical and practical skills and not slash training budgets. Organisations must not be reluctant to invest in their staff for fear that they will simply walk away with that practical knowledge.

 Our next meetings

15 December 2016: Rudi Klein: “The future of Trade Associations in the age of austerity”

12 January 2017: Bridget Bartlett: “The future of Professional Bodies in the age of austerity: A view from the CIOB”

16 February: Stephen Matthews: “The future of Professional Bodies in the age of austerity: A view from CIBSE”

16 March: (speaker to be confirmed) “What next for green? Life after DECC”

27 April: Martin Liddament: “A debate on the original question posed by the Rumford Club”