In this article, John Sayers, managing director, Hodgson Sayers and Tony Kay, president, Northern Counties Builders Federation (NCBF), discuss how digital technologies can enhance the perception of the construction sector and help to bridge the skills gap.

John Sayers, managing director, Hodgson Sayers

As a long-term supporter of apprentices, we have seen many of our young team progress through the business, and we remain positive about the opportunities that lie ahead.

Digital technologies being one of them.

As one of the world’s largest and most traditional industries, the construction industry has embraced digital technology and when this is combined with high wages, this has the potential to make the sector very attractive to young people.

We also need to integrate technology and digital innovation into learning. More often than not, when speaking to apprentices, digital technologies and traditional methods of learning are isolated modules, meaning that employers have to train their teams and learn to adjust to new ways of working.

Companies such as Hodgson Sayers rely on traditional skillsets and trade careers can and will make an exciting new shift as workers add new skills and begin to grow and change alongside their respective industries.

As a sector, we need to continue to collaborate, innovate and bridge working in isolation when it comes to implementing digital technologies into projects.

One of the key advantages of working in construction is its flexibility, there are opportunities to work across traditional craftmanship through to digital and that is something we must get better at promoting.

Tony Kay, president, NCBF

The NCBF continues to highlight the importance of schools and colleges when it comes to inspiring the next generation of skilled trades workers. Recently, we collaborated with Hartlepool College of Further Education to highlight to employers a cohort of highly talented and ambitious trade apprentices who had completed full time learning and were ready and very eager for full time employment.

Hodgson Sayers attended this event and is a long-time champion of the apprentice route.

The NCBF has launched an ambitious campaign to collaborate with colleges across the North East to highlight to employers what a great crop of young people we have in the region.

It is crucial, as a sector, that we do all we can to bridge the disconnect with schools and tap into gifted students who are often not fully informed about the benefits of a trade apprenticeship and how the construction sector is a modern industry embracing the digital age.

Traditional construction companies have adapted to the digital age, with technologies implemented across projects. Increasingly, Building Information Modelling (BIM) coordinators liaise with design teams, architects, surveyors, engineers and project managers and it is important that we explore digital technologies at all levels – not least to enhance the image of construction and to use as a recruitment tool.

We need to continue to work hard to change the perception of the industry allowing it to be presented as modern and relevant. It is a flexible sector, where opportunities enable people to work and progress in traditional craft skills whilst also learning and developing digital tools and technologies alongside their trade.

A simple level visual learning, as opposed to a written instruction, can often be more favourable to apprentices.  This is an excellent way to attract young people of all abilities to consider the industry. Allied to the salaries and variety of work, a career in construction can bring great rewards.

Moving forward, we need to ensure schools and colleges can see the opportunities the trades present to young people, as they are a recruitment source waiting to be tapped into.