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Conversation flowed at second Construction Question Time event

Employer partners have enjoyed an hour of debate this morning at our second Construction Question Time at City of Bristol College.

Compere Neil Sherreard, Deputy Chairman of Beard Construction, was once again joined by a panel of industry professionals for debate and sharing of ideas on topics including:

• Pandemic – what lessons can be learned and what can we do moving forward?
• How can employers support education providers such as the College to deliver ‘top of the class’ training?
• Given skills shortages, what part will off-site manufacturing play in the future?
• How can we position our industry to ensure we attract the best school leavers?
• Health and wellbeing – the importance of looking after our people and ourselves

The panel joining Neil consisted of:

• Chief Executive and Acting Principal Rich Harris from City of Bristol College
• Business Development Manager, Sophie Pierre, from Montel Civil Engineering
• UKI Director for Permanent Appointments and UKI Director for Construction and Property Appointments, Gaelle Blake, from Hays Recruitment
• Project Lead Tim Smith from BoKlok UK.

Guests attending the event enjoyed breakfast and refreshments before sitting down to hear the thoughts of the industry professionals.

The event started with the topic of the pandemic and what lessons employers and educators can learn from the lockdowns moving forward.

Gaelle Blake opened the discussion, saying: “What we are struggling with now is how quickly things changed back and how people’s thinking has changed since the pandemic. We have all had to plan how to provide our service and think up innovative ways to adapt. One of the biggest lessons is how to treat our staff the whole way through. A year ago, businesses were trying to offload staff, now a year on we are in the middle of what has been called the ‘great resignation’.”

Rich Harris also weighed in on the conversation. He said: “The pandemic showed us the value technology brings to a company. Swiftly, people like myself became experienced on Teams so that was fantastic to see the value technology could bring during a challenging time. Our students, especially our young people, have had a very strange experience and they have not had the same formative years that we experienced at the age of 15/16 years old. That is why there is all the more reason to ensure future employers are sympathetic to this fact.

Another question raised by Neil was about how employers can support educators.

Tim Smith said: “We have got to be there helping to design the course content and have a joint-up decision on how we do that. We also need to be visiting primary schools and get them thinking about construction now as a career. We need to consider how to share the creative opportunities in the construction industry, like careers in architecture and design.

Sophie Pierre joined the discussion, saying: “It is about getting the message out that you choose a career but you can change. Students are put under so much pressure at 16 to choose their career for the rest of their lives but being told you can retrain and change your mind needs to be communicated. The key is to get your qualifications under your belt and then go from there.

The event was well-attended, with more than 20 people from different sections of the industry and with some joining in with an open table discussion at the end of the event.

One attendee, Josh Harris from Vistry Partnerships, said: “It was really informative and I liked how today covered a broad range of conversations but ones which we are having internally at Vistry. It is nice to hear that people are facing the same issues and to hear how other people are looking to overcome these. It is part of my role, in employment, training and work experience and working with the skills academies are all really important so it is nice to hear that is a strong focus for the majority of the room. The conversation around mental health is a really important one. Vistry are partnered with Mind so it is something I can go back and share with colleagues.

It wasn’t just the guests who found the event helpful; members of the panel also felt they had taken something away with them.

Sophie explained: “Montel has a big site and we are looking to open permanent offices in the Bristol area so we really want to get involved in Bristol education. I worked with apprenticeships in the past and Montel is a business which always has a number of apprenticeships coming through. We just want to let the local community know that we are there and want to be involved and we, as the construction industry we can see where the shortfalls are and were young adults need to be connected with sooner.

The next Construction Question Time will be held on 11 March. Keep an eye on the events section of our website to see the new panel and to get booked on.

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