Posted on November 16, 2018 by staff

Scale of growth for construction and digital skills at risk

Scale of growth for construction and digital skills at risk

Mark Lawler
Mark Lawler

Liverpool City Region’s (LCR) thriving sectors will continue to grow but may not reach their potential if skills are not addressed urgently says Baltic Creative CIC MD Mark Lawler.

He shared his thoughts with the 60-strong audience at BusinessCloud’s LCR Construction Skills Summit in Liverpool, sponsored by Progress to Excellence Group.

Earlier this year Liverpool City Region Combined Authority  published a report based on research by CITB, which said  Liverpool City Region needed 18,000 new construction workers.

LCR Construction panel

In spite of the challenges, Lawler and the rest of the region’s champions will continue to invest, he says, but this may not be enough.

“My worry is that the region won’t fully exploit the fantastic opportunities that exist to create real high-value jobs through the creative and digital industries if these skills shortages are not addressed,” he said.

“Any policies or actions or organisations involved in those sectors with training talent, we would love to help them get the support they need to deliver training.

“We’ll continue to see growth and value and jobs created, it’s just the scale of the growth that’s at risk.”

The potential is there, believes Lawler, who says the organisation is currently developing space in the city’s trendy Baltic Triangle area to latent demand.

“We’ve got people sitting on our waiting list and the tech sector in the region is incredibly healthy,” he said.

“We’re seeing double digit growth in those industries and according to the Tech Nation report in the next three years we’ll see 80,000 new tech jobs created in the North of England. We currently employ about 24,000 in the LCR.

“So my question is, if we’re going to see those new high-value tech jobs created here, how many can we grab in the LCR?”

LCR Construction panel two 

Construction Impact Framework founder Sara Lawton believes the key to getting more talent in construction specifically is to do with social mobility, having come from a deprived area herself.

“Austerity has hit everywhere and it does affect skills,” she said.

“Social mobility is key. At the moment you’ve got an accumulation of years of deterioration of intervention and preventative services, so if you’re out there working in communities, you have the opportunity to engage and encourage young people to join the sector.”

Lawton has found that this is especially key following feedback from the construction industry that it’s difficult to engage with educational partners. However, getting to young people as early as possible and showing them the opportunities within the sector is vital.

LCR Construction audience

“It needs to go beyond just going into schools and showing young men and women that you can be a joiner, a quantity surveyor, an architect, in admin or bricklaying, and progress to become your own boss,” she said.

“We need to engage with young people at a much earlier age to shape their future. At the moment everyone seems to be drawn to the tech industry in terms of skills that schools will promote.

“You can do e-learning, schools are becoming more digitalised as is everyday work. So there needs to be early intervention to show people there’s a different route there in construction too.”

Asif Hamid MBE, chair of the LEP, opened the event by saying the image of the construction sector needed a facelift to reflect the fact it was now a skilled profession.

Sandra Kirkham, group MD, Progress to Excellence Group and chair of Wirral LEP spoke  passionately about giving a “second chance” to prison leavers to help meet the recruitment crisis.

Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, said apprentices were crucial and has campaigned for devolution of the apprenticeship levy so decisions can be taken locally.

The other speakers were: Tom Powell, MD, Complete Training Solutions; Dr Paul Jones, senior development manager, Capital & Centric; and Wendy Smith, partnership manager – Liverpool, CITB.