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Education and Training

The UK construction industry is relatively well catered for in terms of the supply of skilled new entrants via education and training. There were approximately 68,000 enrolments onto construction courses at both further and higher education in 2007/08.

Across the past decade the majority of trainees at further education have been training towards a Level 2 qualification in wood trades, while at higher education the most popular course has been a first degree in building.

Construction Skills Certificate Scheme (CSCS) is, in part, addressing this drive towards a fully qualified construction workforce. Under this scheme operatives’ skills are validated against national standards and that they have the required knowledge to operate safely on site. It is expected that the up-skilling and qualifying the workforce will be employee-led.

For more information on Construction Skills Certificate Scheme go to the ConstructionSkills website.

Source: Sector Skills Assessment for the Construction Sector 2009


Qualification profile of the workforce

Within the UK construction industry:

  • Apprentice training is substantially more popular in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK.
  • England, Scotland and Wales have the highest proportion of their workforces qualified to S/NVQ level 4 and above.
  • Northern Ireland has the largest proportion of workers with no qualifications.
  • Compared to all industries the construction workforce has a significantly higher proportion trained as an Apprentice, but a smaller share trained to Level 2. However, it is standard practice to equate an Apprentice to a Level 2 qualification, therefore when added together the construction industry has a slighter higher proportion qualified to a level 2 (24% v 21%).

The vast majority of non-manual occupations are educated to Level 4 and above and on average a third of these qualifications are first degrees, with the exception of Architects, where degrees account for just over a half of the Level 4 and above qualification.

Across the manual occupations, the highest proportion is educated to Level 3. However, the manual workforce are far more likely to not have any qualifications than those employed in non-manual occupations. Amongst Roofers, a fifth did not have any qualifications.

Source: Sector Skills Assessment for the Construction Sector 2009

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There were 7,637 starts on a construction apprenticeship during 2008. 2% of the construction workforce is currently undertaking an apprenticeship, and an additional 31% has completed an apprenticeship.

Manual trades are much more likely to be involved with apprenticeships compared to non-manual trades. For example, 72% of carpenters and joiners have completed an apprenticeship and 7% are currently undertaking an apprenticeship.

Source: Sector Skills Assessment for the Construction Sector 2009

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Half of establishments across the UK construction industry had funded or arranged training or development for staff during the 12 months to July 2009.

Key statistics:

  • Increased with establishment size; from 48% among those employing 2-9 staff, up to 92% among those employing 100 or more direct employees.
  • Among sole traders and the self-employed around a quarter (26%) have undertaken or provided training.
  • Is higher among Professional Services firms (55%) than the construction contracting sector (49%).
  • Is higher in Northern Ireland (68%), Wales (64%) and the East (59%), and was lowest in the West Midlands (40%). Elsewhere it tended to fall in the 47% -53% range.
  • The construction contracting sector is slightly more likely to train to qualifications than professional services firms.

Source: Sector Skills Assessment for the Construction Sector 2009

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Higher education

The UK has a high-quality of training on offer and that many UK courses are closely tied to associated professional bodies, such as the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE).

The trend in recent years has been one of increasing demand for higher education places, despite the introduction of variable fees, influenced largely by increases in the 17 to 30-year old population (64% of full time higher education first degree entrants are under 21 and nearly 90% are under 30).

The number of applicants to Built Environment degree courses has increased every year since 2003, with 2008 seeing a 15% increase in UK domiciled first degree applicants compared to 2007.

A high proportion of course enrolments are from Non-UK Domiciled students. The proportion of students is highest for Civil Engineering (28%) and Architecture (20%) courses. From 2006/07 to 2007/08, there was a 10% increase in the total number of Non-UK Domiciled student enrolments. This increase is mostly due to an increase in Building course enrolments of 50% – this could be due to increased demand for architectural technicians or related professions.

Source: Sector Skills Assessment for the Construction Sector 2009

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