10 May 2023

Social Value: A matter of necessity, not just adding value

 Social Value: A matter of necessity, not just adding value

With the construction industry predicted to need an extra 225,000 workers by 2027, according to new reports from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), our Construction Group Managing Director, Paul Dodsworth, shares his views on ingraining social value in our culture and the importance of training the built environment’s future workforce.

Some of the most proud moments of my career have been meeting and working with apprentices on site; it’s like looking in a mirror for me. In a former life, I helped launch a construction skills campus in Leeds and I took immense pride in picking up a trowel, dusting off my trade skills and laying a few bricks to show the trainees how it’s done. Starting my career as an apprentice bricklayer is something I will never forget. 

There is a lot of passion, skill and expertise in the construction workforce, certainly in my experience of the team at Caddick Construction Group and our supply chain partners. These qualities make construction an industry that has a fantastic work ethic. Us builders really care about what we do and that extends beyond our projects. We are custodians of our industry and as such, we make sure we’re always raising our game, and looking for better ways to support the strength and success of our industry for the future.

That being said, when I talk about investing in the future workforce, the picture is far bigger than simply sharing our passion for construction. It is also a matter of necessity; the skills needed in our industry will reach critical levels if we don’t put some meaningful systems in place to upskill the next generation, and soon. The CITB has predicted that the construction industry will need almost a quarter of a million new workers by 2027 if the industry grows at the predicted rate. Meeting that figure would bring the total number of workers in construction to 2.67 million.

So what is to be done? Well first and foremost, contractors need to make skills investment an integral part of their social value strategies and embed that in their business culture. Every step of a construction journey - from design to supply chain management, from business development to project delivery - should have a trainee or apprentice in the room so we can impart some skills and knowledge onto them. If this doesn’t happen, then that is a missed opportunity.

Methods of delivering skills training is also a great subject for debate. Yes, we can recruit career starters and nurture their skills. This is the cornerstone of plugging the industry’s widening skills gap, but the issue runs much deeper than this. The onus is on us to actually inspire young people to make those choices in the first place. This is by no means a new challenge but we need new and innovative ways of achieving this. We’re in danger of shouting into an echo chamber about this issue, when what we need to do is take it outside of the industry and make some noise about the incredible diversity and opportunity we have in the built environment.

Tackling the issue at a grassroots level requires engagement with the education system, and this is where social value can be really powerful. By working with schools, colleges, universities and education trusts, we can be a part of the conversation on attracting new talent into the industry, and if you have a well thought-out and well executed social value strategy, this can happen at every level - on the ground, in the supply chain and in the boardroom.

Ultimately, social value is driven by an overarching aim to make a positive impact on communities, and we should never lose sight of this. But social value is at its best when that impact has longevity. We can offer on-site work experience, and in that moment we may have simply met a social value KPI. But the real measure of impact is in what follows. Even if that work experience is one day on site, it can be enough to inspire someone into our industry. It can be the seed that grows into a promising career, the first step in building skills for life.

*CITB’s Construction Skills Network (CSN) Industry Outlook 2023-2027




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