You’ll be forgiven for never having heard of CITB’s latest pilot scheme: The Homebuilding Employer Network. And that’s because it’s only recently been set up and key stakeholders rounded up to back the exciting new initiative.
Essentially, the concept behind the 12-month scheme being trialled is for CITB to – in their words, not mine – “work with experts across the sector to deliver a new, pain-free way of finding the right courses and training centres for Homebuilding employers”; in the process releasing around £270,000 of funds to pay for it.
Why Was The Homebuilding Employer Network Set Up?
The idea is to firstly take a step back and analyse exactly where training is needed across teams and trades within the homebuilding arena, in order to identify the types of skills that would impact homebuilding employers most positively and productively.
Said upskilling would include trade-specific competencies as well as digital skills, training on net zero and management courses, to name but a few.
The ultimate goal is meet the Government’s homebuilding targets over the next few years whilst also eradicating non-compliant onsite practices, and thereby bolstering the reputation of the housebuilders themselves.
Who is involved in the Homebuilding Employer Network?
Although the brainchild of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the network would be nothing without the support of levy-paying contractors representing various trades and the “experts across the sector” as per the CITB quote above.
Among the panel of experts contributing to the goals of the initiative include representatives from major housebuilders / property developers, building federations and trade associations.
The ABC and The Homebuilding Employer Network
Of course, it stands to reason that The Association of Brickwork Contractors – with its raft of members and significant influence in the homebuilding (as well as commercial and infrastructure) sector – would have a say in the issues affecting the brickwork trade.
As its chief representative and spokesperson at the negotiating table, The ABC’s CEO Eve Livett has been approached to put forward the shortcomings its members are seeing from a competence perspective where bricklaying on residential sites is concerned.
Challenges Affecting Brickwork
One of the recurring issues in brickwork is the disparity in quality, for example across sub-contracted gangs from housebuilders’ respective supply chains (which they equate to roughly 80% of their workforce) vs direct labour, which are perhaps exaggerated by a ‘price work culture’ that oftentimes prioritises speed over an emphasis on the highest build quality.
Another issue is the changing times and the new skills necessitated by high rise residential builds. As we’ve discussed in various blogs and news posts, today’s brickwork subcontractor is not solely tasked with the brick and blockwork as in times gone by. More often than not, they’ll take on everything to do with cavity work; namely the insulation, firestopping, windpost and masonry support packages.
And why not? Talking frankly, there’s margin in it from a subbie’s perspective, so it’s absolutely understandable they’d want to take it on.
But it all goes back to the quality assurance aspect. We live in a world where it’s not good enough to have unqualified or non-accredited operatives carrying out tasks on site (and rightly so), regardless of how lucrative that activity is.
A Practical Example
So, imagine this for a moment… An operative who has laid bricks for 30 years on small domestic sites moves onto a 16-storey residential job in a city centre where he/she is asked to install masonry support angles for the first time.
Based on industry experience alone, he/she accepts. But maybe he/she is unaware of the shimming tolerance of the system? Perhaps he/she fails to read the masonry support drawing correctly, sets the components out incorrectly and installs angles capable of supporting different masonry loads in the wrong locations? Or maybe he/she fails to observe the minimum embedment of the fixing into the substrate, therefore compromising the load-bearing capacity of the system and potentially leading to failure over time?
It’s logical that, in any of these cases, the operative – and of course the firm he/she represents – would be in real danger of having a claim brought against them further down the line; and (more importantly) would be endangering the safety of residents and the general public.
The ABC Assessment Centre and the Homebuilding Employer Network
It’s a logical leap, therefore, to enlist the training services of a specialist provider as a go-to for upskilling in these areas of modern masonry competencies. And who better than the CITB Approved Training Organisation (ATO) who wrote the relevant short course standards in the first place and has been the only training provider consistently delivering against them for over 4 years, as well as an entity that has trained over 600 young people in Further Education Colleges on these skills to date?
So, it wasn’t a difficult decision for CITB to reach out to The ABC Assessment Centre and call upon its expertise and personnel to look at ways to use its upskilling services to benefit housebuilding operatives.
Although the exact details of the collaboration are yet to be confirmed, we are incredibly excited about supporting this initiative that will produce sector-wide improvements and a much needed standardisation of quality across homebuilding sites in the UK.
A Final Word From CITB
Farhan Sattar, who is the Homebuilding Employer Network Lead at CITB, commented:
“I am excited to be leading this new initiative, making it easier for homebuilding employers to get the training they need, and to address the skills challenges they face.
Housing has been identified as a major area of demand in the CITB Construction Skills Network Report Five Year Outlook, 2023-2027. Developing and investing in the Homebuilding workforce is vital to ensuring that the sector can continue to support growth and build the homes the country needs.
This network will support employers across all the trades involved in the Homebuilding sector, to develop a fully skilled workforce. Providing the skills they need right now and into the future, in a simple and effective way”.