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Skills www.thefis.org 9 launched with two routes; drylining and ceilings and partitions) provided us with all the skills we required. Loss of EU workers The pandemic changed everything. Because we have a high percentage of directly employed site operatives and many of our end-user customers chose to close sites in the initial lockdowns, many of our employees were furloughed. This appeared to be a catalyst for change. Many are calling it the ‘great reset’ but however you refer to it, there was a definite shift in the psyche of the nation, particularly, I think, the young. This happened at almost the same time as we left the EU, and the biggest effect of the two events for our sector, and construction as a whole, was that large portions of the EU workforce disappeared almost overnight. This wasn’t of course just a problem for construction, there were holes appearing in many sectors of the economy, many holes that didn’t really show themselves until the economy was fully up and running again. Retention of staff Young people now have a panoply of choice, both in their career choice and the route that career will take, and they have never been in more demand. Attracting young people into construction and keeping them there has never been harder and we will need to offer more and more; in terms of employee benefits and working arrangements in order to achieve it. We have lost many of the younger members of our workforce. The minute they are qualified, they are being offered large salaries by companies desperate to fill holes in their workforce. In my opinion, they are neither ready, nor possess the experience required but the situation is desperate and I fully understand why it is happening. We are also finding it harder to attract young people to take up the apprenticeships to fill the gaps. Encourage young talent As a small business owner, this is currently my biggest headache. I took pride in our apprenticeship programme and although I’m sure it wasn’t perfect; I think we provided a nurturing and pleasant working environment in order to encourage our young talent. I have lost confidence in our ability to provide this and need to dust myself off and start to think differently. If I don’t, our future ability to service our customers’ needs will be compromised. It has never beenmore important to adapt and change recruitment practices and procedures in order to achieve my goals. I am still working through what this entails andmaybe need some recruitment trainingmyself but there’s one thing for sure, unless construction wakes up to the fact that young people want and need a secure, flexible, friendly and diverse environment in which to work, then we will not solve the skills crisis. We need to be appealing to the whole of society and change the current perceptions before this wholly damaging crisis is resolved. ‘People poaching’ George Swann, FIS Skills and Training Lead, said: “What Helen is describing here is known as ‘people poaching’ in the education and training sector and in the recruitment sector as ‘headhunting’. I feel sure there are others who are suffering from the same activity. Although there are benefits to the organisation that gains the individuals, in essence, people poaching has a number of negative spin offs: • individuals who are not fully competent or ‘not ready’ may be responsible for at least part of the 17% re-work (in drylining) that the sector has recently reported. It is unlikely there is anything or anyone to remind the individuals of the training they have received, particularly if they no longer have access to their original coach, mentor or apprentice master; • if one organisation offers more money to attract people and they move, the next organisation that is short of people will need to offer more money and it will go on until the wage costs are beyond the contract values, leading to losses, contractors receiving penalties and eventual closures; and • the losing organisation, the one that paid for individuals’ training, gets no return on their investment and, in some cases, may not be able to sustain the loss making training too much of a cost. The fewer organisations investing in training, the fewer qualified workers will be available, adding to a cost increase based on demand being higher than supply. As a member of FIS, you’re not alone If you feel it’s hard to get and hold onto labour now or recruit and retain new entrants into your organisation, people poaching has the potential of making it even harder. The current labour shortage will not be addressed overnight but doing nothing isn’t an option – it’s going to need a determined and collaborative effort by the employers of this sector to fix. The utopia would be all organisations, regardless of size micro, small, medium and large, to invest in training and qualifying people, even if it’s one person every three years, it adds a qualified person to the workforce. For recruitment there are many free advertising options and potential recruitment groups you may not have considered, get in contact with FIS and we’ll point you in the right direction. If you think there is too much cost involved in training, again, give FIS a call we may be able to direct you to appropriate financial support to a value that might make training and qualifications cost neutral. Email: georgeswann@thefis.org or call 0121 707 0077 Errigal Contracts’ apprentice at UK SkillBuild Competition 2021 Tommy Falco fromWest London College employed by K10 and subcontracted to the BDL Group at UK SkillBuild Competition 2021

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