Clients are increasingly jumpy about the skills gap that has crept on us over the last few years with huge political and practical repercussions about how we will solve it. Clients want to know what steps you will take to ensure you can provide the necessary resources throughout the project. So how are you addressing this important issue to win more work and ensure your own business is sufficiently robust to weather the storm?
The main focus for attention has been on the lack of people needed to carry out the physical work, whether trades people, technicians or operatives. The debate has centred around encouraging young people to seek careers outside of university education and the need to increase the number of apprentices. Employers are offering some great opportunities to obtain the skills needed to develop in part time education whilst working on the job. And, apprenticeship programmes that work across wider frameworks provide more certainty that young people will obtain their qualifications even if their initial employer leaves before their education is complete.
” But the skills gap goes much further than that and extends into the technical, design and management people required for projects and I wonder if we aren’t being a little too timid in how we approach this.”
Back in the mists of time, following another recession we were in a period of high growth and limited resources in my industry. Large salaries were being offered to induce people to move and the company I worked for had limitations that prevented them from competing with the larger firms. We’d just landed an exciting new project to design and manage the construction and fit out of a new office headquarters for a USA based telecoms company…it was a dream job and one that I thought I would have to wait years before I could have the chance of working on it.
I recall being incredibly ambitious as a young architect and what some people confused with being arrogance was just a desire and a need to get on as quickly as possible. My employer wanted to recruit a senior architect to lead the job but was struggling to find someone willing to join us. Fortunately for me my boss was persuaded (after much pleading!) that I could run the project provided I had a senior technician called Peter Fielding working alongside me to guide me with his extensive experience.
Looking back, the reality was that I lacked some essential skills and had to learn very quickly on the job. One such skill was to thwart the bombardment of claims and challenge the regional director of a national building company (who shall remain nameless, and since became a friend) to keep the project on track. Peter was able to improve my understanding of construction detailing and specification whilst I learned more about cost management by drawing on my father’s input from a lifetime in construction.
Of course, today this process has been adopted by many of the large corporates to fast track candidates they identify with high potential through the ranks as fast as possible. We often hear that having a mentor is a great idea to provide an outside perspective to our work,
” But is it possible to extend people beyond their usual development path, even if they are not seen as the ‘stars of industry’ when you provide the necessary support?”
Our ageing population is becoming restless and less happy with having to retire from life – you only have to pop into B&Q and see how many supposedly retired people work there. I don’t believe it’s only for the money but more about the social interaction and keeping their minds active so they don’t get bored. I recall my father taking part time work advising a local developer/ contractor how to build industrial sheds soon after his retirement because he didn’t want to give it all up immediately. He just didn’t feel comfortable being in a full time job one day and then having to find something new to do the next. His mind was active and he wanted to keep it that way.
So I was thinking, doesn’t it make sense to explore opportunities to involve people who have retired or may be considering doing so to provide support to our younger people so they can advance more quickly and fill the gap? After all, they have years of experience that is highly valuable and a lost asset to any business when they go. Sharing this with the upcoming generation whilst allowing them to do things their way could just ease some of the pressures…