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can modular construction close the skills gap?.

As part of its Road to Recovery, the CLC identifies supporting jobs as a critical driver to restart the construction industry and boost the economy. However, in a report at the beginning of the year, the RICS claimed an additional 200,000 workers would be needed to close the skills gap and get Britain building.

Historical issues
 

The construction industry has been facing these issues for some time. A report released by the Centre for London back in 2018 discovered that the construction workforce was ageing and over-reliant on workers from the EU. Combined with an almost 50% decline in apprenticeships take up, the report highlighted a huge skills gap in on-site trades. One possible solution? To rebalance house building towards Modern Methods of Construction.

MMC and the skills gap
 

The government has already signalled a willingness to embrace MMC and venture capital is making its presence felt in the sector. So why is modular and other innovative techniques the right way to address the skills gap?

With housing projects completed in around two-thirds of the time of traditional construction methods, in a quality controlled environment, modular presents one solution for diversifying the workforce and creating long-term jobs in modular construction.

Modular is just one of the ways that construction can improve efficiency and open the way for new talent. The ilke Homes on-site Academy is designed to build a wider skills base by recruiting from sectors traditionally underrepresented in the construction industry, providing jobs in modular construction for school leavers, women and military veterans, amongst others. Ilke has said that the Academy will offer a clear path to career progression with training and a leadership development course already in place.

The benefits of modular
 

MMC continues to present a popular solution for a number of reasons. Prefabrication cuts time and costs, offering high-quality, low energy solutions that are easy to customise. Modular homes, offices, classrooms and even operating theatres offer a highly sustainable alternative to the noise pollution and waste of traditional on-site construction.

During the lockdown, modular housing factories continued to work while observing social distancing and hygiene guidelines in a way that proved highly challenging for traditional construction.

Transferable skills
 

While the construction industry has largely sat on its hands as the skills gap continued to grow, initiatives such as the ilke Academy are ensuring that the right skills exist and that they draw from a wider and younger talent pool. New recruits will learn a vital range of skills including plumbing, carpentry, design and engineering that will drive forward the switch to MMC and support the wider construction industry.

The push through to modernising and digitising the industry is creating a range of new opportunities. Jobs in supply chain management, logistics, assembly techniques and digital design require a new skill set for a new industry. The 'big break' has given the entire construction sector the opportunity to build back better. Offsite manufacture offers a way to narrow the skills gap with greater industry attraction for a more diverse workforce.
 

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