Insight  construction

Construct the future: An educator’s perspective

With the evolution of the construction industry putting new demands on the workforce it is time to re-think supervisor training, says Douglas Morrison, STEM and innovation lead at City of Glasgow College and Scottish regional director at the Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange.

Around 10% of the UK population are currently employed within the construction sector. More than 280,000 businesses contribute almost £90bn GVA to the economy each year, representing 6.3% of total GDP. By 2025, the global construction market is projected to grow by more than 70%. 

The recently launched industrial strategy and associated sector deal for the construction industry acknowledge the vital role that construction activity plays in ensuring the long-term economic prosperity of the UK. The influential Farmer Review entitled ‘Modernise or Die: Time to Decide the Industry’s Future’, calls for construction companies to work more collaboratively to seek significant productivity gains through innovative practices, solutions and the development of digitally aware, multi-skilled workers.

The adoption and integration of digital and automated work processes is considered to be a key enabler in unlocking business performance. We are already seeing an increased adoption of building information modelling, offsite manufacture and mixed reality visualisation. Progressive companies within the industry have recognised the competitive advantage that digital integration and enhancement offers to their business and are already delivering projects, such as the augmented reality BIM interface on the Crossrail project, at a lower cost, to a higher standard and in less time.

Developing a skilled construction workforce

The development of a technically and digitally skilled workforce is vital to the realisation of the industry’s drive towards inclusive and sustainable growth, fair work and long-term prosperity. 

However, evidence suggests that tertiary education institutes are struggling to keep up with the rate of change, with the curricula offer becoming increasingly misaligned with ever-evolving industry expectations. This misalignment is acutely experienced in supervisory training programmes where an ever expanding catalogue of responsibilities, the diverse nature of activity across the industry and productivity pressures make it challenging to structure and deliver a fit-for-purpose and impactful training provision. 

The principles of co-design, co-delivery, and co-validation should become the standard model for the development of training and education programmes. 

To equip supervisors with the skills to flourish in the workplace while meeting the needs and expectations of the labour market, it is vital that the education sector respond to the challenges associated with ensuring a responsive, adaptive and often anticipatory curriculum offer to address both established and short-term skills shortages, as well as emerging and future skills demands. 

We can do this by working closely with industry to co-design and co-deliver programmes that are aspirational in intent whilst reflecting and maintaining relevance to industry practices. The principles of co-design, co-delivery and co-validation should become the standard model for the development of training and education programmes. 

These principles involve rethinking when and how programmes are designed – moving from a top-down, one-off, ‘professional experts’ approach that may or may not include wider consultation, towards an iterative, structured process that includes a broad range of people, at every stage, and is built on a community of relationships and mutual trust.

re-thinking supervisor training

Whilst supervisor training has often focused on legislative and compliance-based responsibilities, it should be widened in scope to encompass the range of skills, qualities and competencies expected of the modern supervisor. The narrow, technical focus of existing training provisions is leading to the emergence of inexperienced and underqualified supervisors who are failing to manage the demands of the job and who are all too commonly making mistakes and ‘burning out’. 

We need to reframe our model of supervisor training from ‘competence and compliance’ to one of continuous improvement and a drive towards excellence. This extends beyond attendance at an educational institute or training provider, to encompass integrated work-based learning programmes as well as coaching and mentoring opportunities.

We need to reframe our model of supervisor training from ‘competence and compliance’ to one of continuous improvement and a drive towards excellence. 

The City of Glasgow College is working in collaboration with BCTG Construct to deliver a CITB-funded educational solution that is unique in the scope and scale of its partnership engagement strategy. With over 80 industrial partners, it aims to deliver a transformative approach to curriculum design, development and delivery whilst strengthening and supporting collaborative working, innovation and the sharing of best practice across the education system and industrial landscape. It seeks to deliver access to quality personalised, contextualised and accredited training at any time, anywhere, and at an affordable cost. 

If the industry is to realise the productivity gains made possible in this increasingly digitised world, supervisors are likely to be at the heart of any future success. Innovation in curriculum design and delivery is vital to ensuring that the industry has access to a pool of talented, digitally capable supervisors. Whilst the industry comes under increased pressure to find productivity gains, the opportunities for growth have never been greater.

About the author

Douglas is an experienced educator with a demonstrated history of working in the further and higher education sector. His areas of interest include STEM, innovation, digital disruption, educational policy, technology enhanced learning and gender equality issues. 

He is the STEM and innovation lead at City of Glasgow College and Scottish director of the Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange.

Douglas holds a master’s degree in educational technology and is a doctor of philosophy (PhD) candidate at the University of Strathclyde researching gender, habitus and occupational segregation in the UK construction industry.

He is a fellow of the Institute for Innovation and Knowledge Exchange (FIKE), a board member at Glasgow City of Science and Innovation, and holds gender focused advisory positions at the Scottish Funding Council, Skills Development Scotland and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

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