Upskill to solve the skills shortage, with the latest courses from British Gypsum.
The skills gap continues to present the construction industry with a huge problem. Despite the significant levels of resources spent on activity, and campaigning to encourage more people to enter the industry, we are still falling far short of creating the 168,500 new workers The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) estimates will be needed by 2023.
Whilst changing the image of a career in construction and attracting more school and college leavers is one solution, there is also a very strong argument that the industry should also focus on enhancing and developing the skills of existing tradespeople.
So many trades are in short supply, so having a workforce that is multi-skilled can have real benefits to individual businesses. With the necessary skills base in place, companies will be able to take on more jobs and more complex projects with greater efficiency and, of course, profitably.
One company that puts a real focus on upskilling, and providing training to existing builders, is British Gypsum. The manufacturer has been running short practical courses across its UK based training academies for over 50 years, giving those looking to upskill or change career path access to a range of learning methods.
Dave Hall, training partnerships director at British Gypsum explains: “The fact that we are facing a skills shortage in the construction industry is old news. Construction trades have topped the list of hardest positions to fill for years – and plasterers are a major part of that skills gap. It’s the way we tackle the skills gap going forward that is going to make a real difference and alongside attracting new talent, it is crucially important that as an industry we look to harness and improve the skills of our existing workforce.
“For example, within the plastering industry there is currently a real shortage for plaster skim finishers. Whilst a very skilled trade, it is something that those with existing trowel skills can be taught to do very competently with the right training.”
With this in mind, Dave goes on to discuss one of British Gypsum’s latest upskilling courses – the ‘Site Ready Skimming Course’.
Dave continued: “The aim is to support sub-contractors in upskilling their existing plastering labourers, general labourers, dry lining tapers or employees working in similar roles, with the skills required to undertake the skimming of plasterboards on site. From speaking to our customers, we know that there is a real need for more competent skimmers within the industry and our course aims to help businesses meet these demands.”
Pilot trials of the course have taken place at British Gypsum’s state-of-the-art training academies in Cumbria, Leicestershire and Kent during the last 12 months and to great success.
“It’s a very hands-on, practical course,” Dave continues. “Attendees come every weekday for six-weeks and through demonstration, tuition and practice, are taught the key skills required for skimming plasterboard.
“The first week is largely an introduction to the course and helps us to evaluate the existing skills and abilities of each individual so that we know which areas to tailor their teaching to. We’ll then focus on building their basic trowel skills and straight flat wall application techniques.
“From then-on, each week we’ll be looking at how to skim more complex areas such as skimming around openings and ceilings, before moving on to application around services, splayed angles, column/peer and curved walls, reveals and the beading process. Throughout the course, candidates are pushed to get the plastering meterage onto large wall areas within acceptable time frames and develop through practice and repetition of techniques to build up speeds of application.”
At the end of the six-week course all attendees will complete a timed assessment to ensure they are ready to apply the necessary volumes of plaster required to meet project deadlines but also maintain an acceptable finish.
“The feedback we received from individuals that attended our pilot courses has been brilliant. All attendees highlighted how it had heightened their confidence and improved their skills, speed and efficiency. Their employers too have seen huge benefits, confirming that they had seen greater productivity on site, so they were able to take on more projects as a result.”
British Gypsum will now be partnering with training providers nationwide to offer more businesses and individuals the opportunity to improve their skill-set.
Whilst to many, releasing a member of staff for training for any length of time may sound unrealistic, Dave concludes that it will benefit the bottom line in the long run. “If businesses want to realise the advantages of upskilling an existing employee, then they must view it over the long term. Thorough training to a high level of competence takes time, but the rewards and financial benefits it can bring will start almost immediately.”
But what about those companies that simply need more man power and are struggling to find suitably skilled individuals? “Whilst upskilling existing employees will address many businesses skill-shortage issues, if it’s a case of needing to hire more members of staff then businesses should pay their local building college a visit,” Dave continues.
“In 2018-19 2,600 diploma plastering students left college without finding a job. For a large proportion of these individuals, further training and practice to improve their skills and speed would help them to find employment. If you are looking for more staff and have a college near you that runs a plastering course, pay them a visit. They may have potential candidates you could employ and who would be eligible for the British Gypsum bursary to attend the Site Ready Skimming Course. Alternatively, get in touch with us directly – we’ve also begun identifying the best talent from the diploma students ourselves, placing them on our six-week course to ensure that they are prepared for the workplace. We have seen amazing results so far with huge improvements in workmanship and confidence from students by the end of the course.”