Jenny Herdman of the Home Builders Federation tells us about this initiative, which is working with national and regional housebuilders to attract the best candidates to jobs across the industry.
Hi Jenny, what is the Home Building Skills Partnership you are running?
The Home Building Skills Partnership has been set up with CITB funding to improve the skills of the industry workforce to raise productivity and quality and attract a larger and more diverse workforce. It’s across the home building industry, not purely our members, and we now have over 70 companies involved.
We are looking at how we attract more people into our industry by showcasing the range of career options available. We want to attract the brightest and best young people in to housebuilding; but we are also looking at other areas too – the armed forces, where there are a lot of skill sets that align, and other areas of the general workforce with transferable skills we could bring across.
We also want to ensure the workforce we already have is trained to as high a level as possible. We are already piloting site manager training for example, and looking at what other training we could mainstream to drive up skill sets.
We are throwing the net as wide as possible and want to see companies from across the supply chain and subcontractor sector get involved. A large proportion of the people who build homes are employed through subcontractors and so it is essential we work with them to ensure they are getting the support they need. We will only address these challenges by working together as an industry. The fact we already have 70-plus companies signed up to our skills pledge, committing them to training in a certain way and working with us is hugely positive. We now need to build on this and get more people on board.
Please tell us a little about your role and the HBF.
HBF is the representative body of the housebuilding industry. One of the biggest challenges currently facing the industry is with regards to skills. Whilst housing supply is up 74% in the past four years we are still well short of delivering the number of homes we need. The government has set us a challenging target of delivering 300,000 homes a year. If we are to achieve this, then increasing industry capacity and skills will be absolutely critical.
To enable us to tackle the challenge head on, we set up the Skills Partnership. We have a small team that sits within HBF but success will be dependent upon getting people and companies from across the industry to collaborate and pull together, home building employers collaborating together to solve their collective issues. My role and that of the team is to facilitate this and work with them to pilot solutions, increase awareness and help real change happen.
Can you tell us the career path that has led to this senior position?
I’ve always been involved with staff training and development and particularly apprenticeships. It has always been clear to me that this was a great route for employers to ‘grow their future leaders’ and define the skills needed to be trained. The Skills Partnership builds on this and is identifying the standard of skills needed in key roles. The most interesting part of this role is working with a group of employers together for a common solution that will make a difference
Do you find a very wide spectrum of attitudes and actions relating to apprentices, trainees and graduate starters across the range of housebuilders that belong to the HBF?
Clearly different companies have different approaches, but what is consistent is the recognition that we need to get more young people into the industry and trained. We want to coordinate and support what all these companies are doing to improve the overall industry capacity.
All have a common aim, to build more quality houses, and to do that they need the right number of people with the right skills.
Is there one good way of looking after this part of the business or do housebuilders need to be flexible and innovative?
Each home builders business is different and therefore their solutions are too – but there are common threads and ways of working. They all have similar issues; they want to grow their businesses, which means more people; and they all acknowledge that a significant percentage of their site workforce will retire in the next ten years.
Are there common reasons that attract many trainee-level candidates to this industry?
As an industry we need to showcase ourselves better. Home building provides a broad range of career options and progression opportunities for people and we need to be out there ensuring young people are aware of what we can offer. This is one of our main areas of focus. We want to make sure young people can consider which career option in our industry may suit them and make them aware of the potential both in terms of what they can earn, and how they can progress. We are currently working closely with a specialist agency on this and aim to launch a campaign targeting potential employees later in the year.
Are you confident that the UK can successfully deal with the skills shortage?
I am, or I wouldn’t be here! But to do so we need to ensure we have a plan and are working collectively to deliver it. I firmly believe that the Skills Partnership can be the catalyst and help ensure we recruit and train the people we need to address our housing crisis.
What advice do you have for young people considering a career in the new homes industry?
I would encourage them to consider our industry carefully and look closely at the range of options available. There are so many routes in, University isn’t for everyone and a career in home building will see you earning why you learn. Or as a graduate, there are many opportunities.
Talk to the young people already in the industry – they are enthusiastic and ambitious. As an industry we need to help those who have already made a choice to work in construction get into home building – that’s why we are piloting employment routes for FE college full-time construction students.