Construction businesses across the Black Country looking to deliver upcoming infrastructure projects are being encouraged to invest in the future of their workforce and take advantage of a free business skills programme.
The construction sector in the Black Country, which has already seen £1.6bn of investment across housing, commercial and industrial projects, accounts for over 36,000 jobs and 3,750 businesses. A further £1.1bn of work, including HS2 and the expansion of the Midland Metro, is planned.
Aligned closely with the Black Country LEP’s plan, Skills Support for the Workforce (SSW) has developed a programme of courses aimed to support construction businesses in the delivery of the large-scale developments. The courses are delivered by local training providers in partnership with Calderdale College and will benefit productivity, skills and knowledge across the sector.
Launched after over £10m of funding was secured for the Black Country by the College from the European Social Fund, over 3,000 employees have already benefited from the training. More than two thirds work in the construction industry and this figure is expected to grow.
Sajid Butt, Skills Support for the Workforce’s Senior Relationship Manager, overseeing the Skills Support for the Workforce project in the region, said: “The Black Country’s construction sector is set for year-on-year growth of 1.8 per cent, with many major projects in the pipeline.
“The changes we’ve seen in the industry recently show that a skilled workforce is more vital than ever to future-proof a business, and as well as recruiting, it’s fundamental that businesses ensure existing staff have the skills to respond to change.
“By working closely with the LEP we have developed a range of skills training programmes offering businesses the chance to upskill their workforce to remain competitive and resilient to industry shifts.”
The courses range from general skills qualifications in mathematics and English to more specific courses such as an NVQ Diploma in Construction Operations. Business planning, presentation skills and team working courses are also available to help facilitate growth and help companies win new contracts.
Businesses benefiting from the funded training include Wallsall-based Simco EFS Ltd, an external framing solutions firm operating across the construction industry.
The company have developed a strong reputation for high standards of excellence in the sector. Through SSW its employees undertook a programme of training which included a Diploma in Cladding Operations and a Level 2 in Preparing and Operating Scissor-type Mobile Elevating Work Platforms - courses which have seen an increase in the productivity and flexibility of the workforce, allowing for business growth.
The training has enabled site operatives to attain nationally-recognised qualifications, supporting one of the business’ key objectives to multi-skill staff and help reduce the reliance on sub-contracted labour. After seeing the positive effects of the training, the firm plans to offer further employees access to training through SSW.
Sajid Butt adds: “When you hear how businesses like Simco EFS Ltd are benefiting, it shows that investing in workforce development is a smart move for any business wanting to secure its future and remain competitive.
“We’ve made great headway in working with businesses across the construction sector to help their operations and ensure their workforce have the right skills.
“But, in order to make this happen, it’s vital to develop an integrated end-to-end skills supply programme to meet the future skills needs of the construction industry as a whole.”
A fund of up to £2m is remaining for SMEs in the Black Country however businesses interested in applying must act quickly as funding is only available until July 2018.
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