George Clarke and MOBI launch courses in advanced home construction

– But is this enough? What does the Built Environment need to meet the skills gap?

Ashley Wheaton, UCEM Principal at University College of Estate Management (UCEM)

Last week, renowned architect, George Clarke announced a brand new range of courses focused on the future of homes and advanced building construction – with the aim of enticing the younger generation into the built environment. Mr Clarke is the founder of The Ministry of Building Innovation (MOBI), an organisation designed to inspire new generations and encourage innovation in the design and construction of housing.

The new courses range from HNC level through to MSc in Advanced Home and Advanced Home Futures. The further and higher education programmes will be initially available at Teeside University from September 2017.

I, personally, welcome the new initiative. There is an unprecedented and ever-growing shortage of skilled labour within the UK construction industry. Estimates show that we may need to recruit as many as 400,000 new employees every year if we are to meet the ambitions and targets for residential, commercial and infrastructure projects over the next five years. In last November’s autumn statement the Government set ambitious targets to build 140,000 new homes by the end of 2017.

Attracting new talent into the sector is therefore not just desirable, it’s absolutely critical if we are to close the current talent gap and avert a major skills crisis in the future.

Mr Clarke has himself commented that, “Unfortunately, British housing is in a state of crisis. The Government itself has stated that the housing market is ‘broken’. The standard and quality of the mass housing estates we are building simply aren’t good enough, while a generation of talented young people are turning their backs on careers in the Construction industry because house building simply doesn’t inspire them.

What this education initiative falls short of addressing, however, is the need for significant skills within traditional and more mainstream disciplines such as building surveying, quantity surveying and construction management – which are crucial to enabling the vast majority of construction projects for the foreseeable future. KPMG and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry have predicted that we need about 20 per cent more construction managers, surveyors, and electricians by 2019 to meet demand (compared to 2010-13).

Clarke is also launching regional MOBI facilities across the country to inspire people in home creation and capture the imaginations of kids – through retraining, crafting and creative thinking. While we strongly believe in encouraging the awareness of and educating on the importance of the Built Environment, from primary school level and upwards – we hope that MOBI will cover all aspects of the sector.

At UCEM, we’re providing programmes for the disciplines mentioned, such as building and quantity surveying, at postgraduate, undergraduate and diploma level. All of these programmes lead to membership of the relevant and recognised professional industry bodies, such as RICS and the CIOB. They are also part of the programmes available under the UK Government’s apprenticeship scheme and funding mechanisms.

If we are to solve the looming UK construction skills crisis – and maintain output at the required levels – we will need to guarantee the maximum relevance of each qualification; ensuring each graduate is able to fully apply their skills in the current market, as well as the potential attractiveness of the course to students.