Richard George, Managing Director of MiTek UK & Ireland talks about how the business is helping to expand industry skills and address the skills gap with the launch of the TRA’s new Designer Development Programme.
In my role as MD of MiTek UK & Ireland and chair of the TRA’s training committee I recently helped develop and launch the TRA’s new Designer Development Programme.
It’s a great honour to be driving a scheme that could potentially address one of the industry’s greatest challenges. It’s a very welcome, sustainable, and long-term solution to addressing the skills shortage. Like in South Africa, in the UK there is a major shortfall in new talent entering the industry with the Stace Next Gen Index estimating that only 7% of the next generation (16-18-year-olds) are considering a career in the construction sector, increasing the concerns of the growing skills shortage.
Everyone is painfully aware of the skills shortages across the industry and recent figures from the CITB show that the UK construction industry needs to recruit 200,000 people if we are to keep up with demand. With the timber trades including carpentry, joinery, and timber engineering in the top five disciplines desperately needing new talent.
It’s something we’ve seen first-hand among our component manufacturer clients who are struggling to recruit new designers; creating challenges in how they meet their growth aspirations, especially in a buoyant market.
Trussed rafter fabricators are a classic example of where a predominantly aging workforce has been predicted to impact the performance of the sector as a whole and the individual fabricator companies. The only way forward, as members see it, is to create a new and consistent pipeline of future employees to fulfil essential roles, particularly that of roof and floor designers.
The Designer Development programme, which focuses predominantly on training and apprenticeships, has been designed to not only make the industry more aspirational for new entrants, but to also help those in the industry develop and progress. We’ll see more people actively seek out and carve a career in the sector, while developing and retaining existing talent.
For the first time the industry now has access to a framework of professional development, assessment, and qualifications. The training scheme allows trussed rafter designers to prove their knowledge and experience and put theory into practice.
The priority now is getting wider industry signed up and engaged, a process which has already started. Its success really hinges on companies stepping forward and starting the step-change the industry needs to secure a better future. Experienced designers can also gain fast track accreditation by evidence-based assessment. Ultimately, we believe the Designer Development Programme will give all component manufacturing companies a benchmark to assess their peoples’ skills against.
Following the launch of the scheme in March we’ve already seen the first three graduates come through the programme from ETS, Donaldson and Truss Form to complete level one of the seven stages. After approximately four years on completion of level seven they will become fully qualified, and adept in complex projects.
It’s important we attract talent from across the board, and of the first five trainees, three were women, which is very encouraging that change is afoot.
Here at MiTek, aside from of the Designer Development Programme, we’re helping the industry in several ways. Labour shortages can be combated through MMC and pre-manufactured value, which our off-site engineered Posi-Joist, and Posi-Rafter systems facilitate, along with our software. Posi-Joists are delivered to site made to measure. They significantly reduce erection times, and labour requirements, over traditional systems.
Many component manufacturers have also formed partnerships with our Dedicated Services team. Based in Vietnam it gives the sector access to skilled resource to upscale their teams. Some clients have expanded their design teams by 25% through this service. They have secured new business and grown as a consequence. It’s these types of success stories that drive the team here at MiTek and make us as passionate today about developing solutions, as when the business was established over 30 years ago.
We recognise however that alone this isn’t a long-term solution for the industry and additional invention was needed. The Designer Development Programme is a great step forward for the TRA and its members. It offers the next generation of trussed rafter and metal web floor designers a structured programme for their development and a series of certificates and evidence books to show their progress and experience gained.
Next on the radar is the goal to create a framework for the professional development of metal web joist designers, now that three levels are available for trussed rafter designers.