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CPA: Developing skills for the future

The Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) has hosted an industry forum to discuss training for those involved with construction plant and equipment.

The CPA’s Training on Plant in Construction (TOPIC) Group is developing a framework for the future direction of skills and training, including those supervising, managing, operating and maintaining it.

The Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) has hosted an industry forum to discuss training for those involved with construction plant and equipment.

The first forum was hosted at Nuthurst Grange Hotel, Warwickshire, and was attended by a cross-section of over 70 people from plant hirers, plant manufacturers, contractors, clients, commercial training providers, further education and other organisations. The all-day forum saw those affected and delivering training discuss the issues and factors around the skills and training agenda for plant and equipment training.

Chair of the TOPIC Group, Bob Harper, Head of Training at A-Plant, led the forum, while a number of speakers outlined the skills agenda from their perspective, including: Paul Whitehead from Highways England, Paul Allman from the Hawk Group, Ed Hudson from Liebherr GB, Michael Bashford from the Costain Group, Simon Keen from Reaseheath College, and George Walton from Keith Cook Training.

Speaker presentations included the quality and availability of skilled workers, Brexit, the issues of finding candidates genuinely interested in the industry, supporting existing employees, the desire to attract more diverse workforces, ageing workers approaching retirement, and confusion surrounding standards.

Delegates also participated in a number of group discussions to discuss the themes and issues raised by the speakers and to identify core issues that required further development.

A number of key issues emerged from the group discussions and included:

  • Implementing new technology to attract new people to the construction plant industry
  • Engaging with micro-businesses
  • Standardisation of qualifications and card schemes
  • Articulating career choices
  • Customers’ limited understanding of the operational aspects of plant
  • Marketing of career choices and meeting expectations

Kevin Minton, Director of the CPA said: “This is the first time that we have held a forum of this type to help formulate a skills strategy for the future, but it was a great success and it provoked interesting debate regarding the recruitment, training, development and retention of a skilled workforce in the plant hire sector. It makes sense to canvas opinions from across the sector to help shape the future direction of skills development for construction plant and the next step will be for the TOPIC Group to take away the themes instigated in the forum to investigate and develop them further. Some very knowledgeable participants were involved in the discussions and made extremely positive and valuable contributions. We’d like to thank everyone who attended the forum.”

The CPA has recently completed a major research project to examine the supply and demand of plant operatives across the construction industry. The study engaged CPA members UK-wide, as well as training providers and contractors. A key purpose of the report was to gain clarity over the number of plant operators in UK construction and to challenge the published figure of around 40,000 as detailed in CITB’s Construction Skills Network Forecast. The CPA study indicated a total UK plant operator workforce of around 289,000 and that plant operation is a top five occupation in construction, but recruitment remains a key challenge for plant hire companies.


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