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Skillsplanner – open data meets the skills shortage

skillsplannerOn the 24th of February the great and the good of the construction industry gathered for the launch of Skillsplanner at the ICE in Westminster.

Skillsplanner is an innovative approach looking to support overcoming the industries skills shortage. Skillsplanner will be a live, user-friendly, open data platform that will allow employers, skills providers and other stakeholders to share past, present and future skills data.

A really interesting use of open data will allow Skillsplanner (subject to some collaboration within the industry) to match supply and demand.

A good debate was had about the importance of the quality of data and some rationalising of data to make it more useful and understandable.

Following an introduction from Rebecca Lovelace, Andy Mitchel of Tideway took to the stage to describe why Skillsplanner is so important to him, to Tideway and to the industry. He talked of the need to do something different if we were finally as an industry going to improve our skills situation.

The skills shortage is Cleary something that Andy feel very passionately about and it was great to hear some of the initiatives ongoing within Tideway that aims to have gender parity within their workforce (white collar).

He also discussed the importance of proper apprenticeships which is an interesting topic and one worth considering far more. Currently in London around 50% of construction apprenticeships started are not completed. This is a shocking statistic and shows how we not only need to attract more but we need to do a far better job of retaining people as well.

Seme4 (the Skillsplanner technology partner) have the complex task of collating and integrating information from differing datasets made possible through the use of a cutting edge linked data platform.

Sir Nigel Shadbolt shared with us some of the principles around the utilisation of linked data, about how we can better use the data freely available to us, and through collaboration across the industry this can become so much more.

He provided some snapshots as to what Skillsplanner could look like. An interactive tool that can provide further detail on skills requirement within a certain project, a certain location and can provide further information on what skills are required.

This did bring up the need for better standardisation of skill description and brought the importance of data integrity. The old saying around the important of inputs for quality of outputs was used a couple of times by the audience!

When you start to consider some of the skills that may be required in 5-10 years are not currently well defined or understood you start to truly see how big a task this is!

Data.. and lots of it

Data is at the heart of Skillsplanner, the ability to collate and make sense of the data and then to present it back in a meaningful way won’t be an easy task but it was great to see so much enthusiasm within the room to get the industry working collaboratively with institutions, each other, educational partners and anyone else with useful information to get this going.

Why is this important?

If the country is to grow and achieve its potential then construction will be a key enabler through the construction of housing, infrastructure and anything and everything else, and this requires a lot of people!

London alone will see £1.3 trillion investment in infrastructure over the next 35 years, £125bn of this in the next 5. The Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine will also see a vast upturn in investment and skills requirements in those areas as well.

To do this our industry needs people. London and the South-East need an estimated 180,000 new skilled entrants to deliver construction projects by 2019.

But this is only part of the problem

I recently wrote a blog around the issues we have recruiting new entrants and how we could better ‘sell’ our industry.

With only 1/3 of career advisors willing to give positive construction career advise the chances of filling this quota is low without something changing.

An important point raised by the panel and audience is that if people can better see a realistic opportunity and a strong future within our industry there is a much greater likelihood that young people will want to come into construction and that their parent will look at it as a viable and fruitful opportunity for their future.

At Invennt we are passionate that construction is a force for good and that great things can happen when you have the right people in the right place.

We will support Skillsplanner however we can and urge you to do the same.

We also urge you to share the good that you do as part of this industry and remind everyone why you love construction.

Ben Pritchard

Ben joined invennt from Magnox Ltd where as a Framework manager in the Nuclear Decommissioning sector he led the procurement and commercial management of a range of frameworks and projects covering demolition, new construction, refurbishment and retrieval, processing and conditioning of waste.

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