Building better bridges – how Ingleton Wood is tackling the construction skills gap

Did you know the construction industry needs 217,000 additional workers by 2025 to meet rising demand? That’s over 4,000 new recruits each month, according to Construction Skills Network research. Architects, technicians, project managers and IT support are all needed.

Consider too: retirements, retention and upskilling your workforce to stay ahead of new trends, technology, legislation and government targets.

Construction will play a vital role in our economic bounce back following the pandemic. Huge infrastructure schemes such as electric vehicle charging, sustainability projects like offshore wind farms, and retrofitting buildings to reduce emissions are all essential.

Schools, hospitals and local authorities also need to invest in ageing premises.

Amid such challenges, it’s reassuring to know large employers like Ingleton Wood, a property and construction consultancy based in Norfolk and across the East of England, are tackling the notorious skills gap that has long bedevilled the industry to fire up productivity.

“We build bridges with schools, colleges and universities, and grow our workforce with homegrown talent,” said Holly Sutherland, Apprenticeship Coordinator at Ingleton Wood.

“Apprenticeships give you diverse workforces and form a key part of our People First strategy. We are also committed to lifelong learning for all our multi-generational teams.”

The education sector knows that work remains to remove “outdated stigma” over vocational qualifications. A new breed of degree apprenticeships could pave the way. Launched in 2015, apprentices study at university and work part-time without paying tuition fees.

Holly believes more universities are now “realising the many rich benefits that apprenticeships provide”. The Practice offers degree apprenticeships for budding architects, engineers and surveyors in association with London South Bank University and Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford.

“These apprentices get the best of both worlds,” Holly added. “They learn cutting-edge theory from leading universities and gain invaluable real-life practical experience from our teams.”

Ingleton Wood drew £40,000 from its Apprenticeship Levy pot last year, potentially rising to £70,000 in 2021/22. They have 15 apprentices: in 2021, five started and two graduated.

Many apprentices aspire to become mentors of the next generation – like Priyanka Shah who completes her four-year Level 7 Architecture Apprenticeship at the Practice’s Norwich office in 2022.

“It’s been a challenging but amazing experience and I wholeheartedly recommend this pathway,” the 27-year-old said. “The quality of my work has vastly improved through being surrounded by experienced teams who give me constant feedback and encouragement.”

Priyanka, a finalist at the 2021 RIBA President’s Medals international student awards for her London Zoo thesis, added: “I’ve built up my confidence with client presentations and I’ve developed my time-management by organising my weekends and evenings to study.”

Fellow Norwich rising star Curtis Huggins, 26, is studying towards an Architectural Technology BSc (Hons) degree – and has already set his sights on becoming a Partner. “I’m improving my skills and personal development, and receive fantastic support,” he said.

Architect and Partner John Dixon said: “We constantly evolve to meet the changing needs of the market.”

The planned upskilling in Passivhaus design, a growing standard of sustainable design approach, is a recent example of how ongoing investment in his teams will help to address the Norfolk skills gap.

“Sustainability and energy-efficiency are our biggest priorities and as a Practice we need to invest to help our clients achieve their sustainability targets,” he concluded.


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