SKILL UP – SKILLNET
Liz Carroll, Network Manager at Construction Professionals Skillnet, explains why training development programmes might help you not just find staff but keep them too
Construction Professionals Skillnet was set up in 2020 as a network for businesses of all sizes in the construction sector, providing competitively-priced training for firms within the industry.
Sharing best practice and responding to the specific skills needs of the sector is the overarching aim of the Skillnet, which is headed up by Liz Carroll. The Skillnet’s flagship programme is the CIOB Certificate and Diploma in Construction Site Management, a programme that’s been developed with tradespeople in mind. Other training courses are developed in direct response to the needs of the industry.
“We offer general training on the likes of Microsoft Office but we also offer programmes on Lean and Last Planner System, Green and Yellow Belt training and we’ve helped companies prepare for green procurement. We also offer training specifically for SMEs; our Management Development Programme for SME owner managers is proving very popular,” said Liz. The Construction Professionals Skillnet takes a fresh approach when it comes to working with SMEs, aiming to help them improve their use of technology and how they go about digitising their operation.
“We’re all about finding out what’s preventing a construction company from performing to the best of their ability and coming up with solutions to fix the problem. We helped one particular company with their IT recently. Rather than reporting back to accounts after making a delivery to site, they simply click on a button on their phone or tablet and the confirmation goes straight into the account system. That kind of digital automation removes the need for paperwork, which can get lost when a delivery driver is travelling from site to site.”
In 2021, the CP Skillnet conducted research into skills requirements for modern methods of construction. A group of experts already involved in MMC are currently in the process of putting some shape on the research, which has so far identified five broad areas of interest. “Those experts will identify what’s needed, whether that’s an informational video, a webinar or a certified training programme. It’s certainly an area of interest for the industry, so we’re taking the appropriate steps to ensure we’re on the right track.”
During lockdown, interest in training programmes facilitated by the CP Skillnet was high, says Liz. Construction firms who were unable to progress projects on site took the opportunity to upskill and participate in training programmes that they’re now seeing the benefits of.
“Construction firms are much busier now, which of course is very positive. I think it’s important that firms take the time to consider our training programmes and the benefits they can bring. Many firms don’t actually realise the scope of courses we run and the fact that companies can approach us to talk about the issues or challenges that are affecting their business. There may or may not be a training course that could provide a solution to that problem but if there is, we can facilitate that training for them.”
Construction firms of all sizes engage with CP Skillnet. Out of the firms that participated in training programmes with CP Skillnet last year, 38% had 10-49 employees, 29% were firms with 50-250 employees while 21% were larger companies, with 250+ employees. Fifty-six percent of participants were in managerial/supervisory roles, 5.6% were owner/managers and 31% were in professional roles. All kinds of construction companies with different requirements are engaging with CP Skillnet every day, says Liz.
“One particular company approached us last year as they wanted to learn how to read construction drawings. Staff had moved from GO’s into supervisory positions and had never been taught how to read construction drawings. That’s a course that we’re offering again this year as I think that kind of situation is becoming more commonplace.”
CP Skillnet supplements the cost of training that construction firms undertake. It allows companies to continue to provide training for employees and gives firms the edge in an increasingly competitive environment. “Firms that provide staff training are also one step ahead when it comes to finding and retaining staff. Research has shown that potential employees want to be offered good career progression. If you’ve got a good training and development programme along with a personal development programme, you’re well positioned to attract good staff. The marketplace has changed; attracting and retaining people isn’t just about offering a good salary anymore.”
All training and guidance offered by CP Skillnet is relevant to small companies, says Liz. “We’re always keen to push the fact that small firms can benefit hugely from engaging with us. Also, it’s important to stress that with the amount of change that’s happening in the sector at the moment, it’s imperative to stay ahead of the competition. Training is a great way of achieving that objective and of staying fresh and current in an increasingly evolving market.”
Denise Maguire Editor of Irish Construction Industry Magazine