Offsite - Its About The People

31st January, 2020

With a 42% increase in the last nine months in people seeking to access learning about offsite through the Supply Chain School there is clearly a demand, but as Ian Heptonstall, Director at the School explains - is this enough?

These pages contain much about the latest innovation in offsite systems and of inspiring examples of how these systems are building ever taller or large structures. We all get excited by these new solutions, but where we should be focusing our efforts is on the people.

Whether you want to build 44 stories of residential in Croydon, a new airport terminal in Dublin, or indeed apply offsite systems to the stations and platforms of Crossrail there are systems suitable to do just this and much more.

These great projects do much to make the business case for offsite, add to this the ever growing list of articles and white papers that have set out the business case and advantages that offsite can bring and we should by now need no further convincing that we need to build better and to do this we need to build differently.

Increased Investment in Construction Industrialisation.

Construction Industrialisation, provides an obvious answer to this need and it is indeed encouraging to see its adoption in the UK is being backed by HM Government, infrastructure clients and increasingly by housebuilders. This has created the conditions where we are seeing significant investments not just by the leading industry players such as Laing O'Rourke, McAvoy and Elliott, but also from outsiders such as Goldman Sachs, Sekisui and Legal & General. Investment in new manufacturing facilities is indeed important, but in the rush to expand capacity we must not forget that it's the people and the processes they develop that will ultimately be the deciding factor on whether these investments, indeed the wider adoption of offsite, will be successful or not.

Skills Gap or Skills Shortage?

It is common to hear about the struggle to get the right talent. The skills gap and skills shortage get regular mentions, but what do we mean by these terms? Dealing with the latter first: the threat to our industry of the ageing workforce and our ability to attract new and diverse talent was clearly laid out in 'Modernise or Die' by Mark Farmer. The skills shortage is one completely of our own making, our business models are project-led and this means we focus on the short term need for labour rather than investing in the long-term pipeline of talent.

The offsite sector is in danger of making the same mistakes. Laing O'Rourke has led the development of the Construction Assembly and Installation Operative Apprenticeship. The Manufacturing Technology Centre are currently developing learning to upskill colleges in the principles of good offsite factories. But both organisations are struggling to persuade colleges to invest in developing their capability to deliver these new qualifications.

Read more in the Offsite Magazine HERE

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