A cross-industry initiative has developed a brand-new set of qualifications for the construction industry, focussed on futureproofing and prepping for the changes that digital transformation will bring to the sector.

The Future of Construction initiative is led by national framework provider Pagabo and made up of representatives from across the wider construction industry, who collaborate to create the future workplace. The group has five key themes and has been working closely to identify what can be done around training in the industry to tackle the current skills gap, and to futureproof the sector and its people.

A five-level qualification on The Future of Construction has been developed, which allows an individual to ‘futureproof’ themselves and to help the industry provide an individual with a life of careers within the industry.

The new qualifications are announced as latest data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that vacancies in the construction sector have hit their highest figure for at least 20 years. Around 43,000 construction roles were unfilled between July and the end of September, which is an increase of 7,000 on the figures between June and the end of August.

Charley Wainwright, who was hired in 2020 to lead on The Future of Construction initiative, has been driving this area of work for Pagabo. He said: “We have to make sure that the skills gap we are facing doesn’t get any bigger, and that training is fit for the new practices that digital transformation will bring. This latest data demonstrates that squeeze on skills in the sector further, so it’s more important than ever that we are getting the best talent into the industry – but most crucially that they are trained with the skills the future will need.

“We have been working with our collaborators across the industry to identify not just what that may look like, but to create brand-new qualifications and training programmes that will support new workers and ensure that the existing workforce is able to upskill and reskill where appropriate too.

“Through collaboration with our working groups, made up of representatives from across the whole industry, we have collectively identified a number of key issues when it comes to construction skills. This includes the lack of soft skills training within the industry, a lack of preparation of future skills, a lack of qualifications that are suitable for all levels, and a lack of training that can be delivered digitally.

“However, we haven’t stopped at just identifying the issues. We’ve taken this information forward to work with national awarding body ProQual to develop a set of qualifications that are fit-for-purpose, fit for the future and will help people promote themselves and their career within construction.”

The qualifications are aimed at all levels, from trainee through to senior management, and are accredited by Ofqual. The study process encompasses a variety of assessment methods and supporting evidence requirements, which can include observation, witness testimonies, activity logs, written questions and professional discussions. The assessment process will be planned and discussed on a continual basis throughout the study period until all of the required evidence is complete, allowing much more flexibility in study than is available in existing qualifications.

The five qualifications have been put through testing with more than 20 volunteers, with 100 per cent of those reporting that the qualifications will be brought into their current job roles but also allow them to feel equipped for future positions too.

Charley concluded: “The construction sector is a crucial one to the UK economy – shown by the role government expects it to play in post-COVID recovery. It employs some three million people and has more than 300,000 individual businesses.

“But the workforce of tomorrow wants and expects more than what the industry currently offers, especially post-pandemic when it comes to things like work-life balance and technology-driven practices. This means it has never been more crucial to ensure that construction is seen not just as a job, but an enticing career option. “We also haven’t forgotten that the workers of the future are still at school, so our next steps are to develop more qualifications that will be available for schools and colleges. With this approach, we will be able to showcase the huge variety of career options the construction industry holds, capture engaged and enthused students during their studies and bring them into the industry of the future.”