Construction professionals need to keep pace with an ever-evolving industry, so Heidi Partridge explains how RICS training remains on trend
The construction sector is evolving rapidly, and professionals therefore need to be supported by training to improve their technical skills and – critically – ensure that they comply with the latest international standards and guidance. We therefore research and respond to future trends, identify skill gaps and develop suitable courses so professionals can keep pace with technical innovations and best practice.
As the UK continues to invest heavily in infrastructure, many surveyors have begun retraining as commercial managers to move into roles in this sector. When we reviewed this market in 2015, the National Infrastructure Plan for Skills estimated that 100,000 new workers would be needed by 2020 and 250,000 existing professionals would require upskilling or retraining to meet new demand.
In response to these findings, RICS launched its Commercial Management Infrastructure Programme in summer 2017, a 6-month distance learning course for quantity surveyors, cost managers and commercial managers new to the role. It aims to give delegates comprehensive commercial and business management competencies; responses to the course were positive, and we will be running it again this summer.
We also had to respond to demand for skills and knowledge in building information modelling (BIM), which accelerated in the run-up to the government’s Level 2 BIM mandate coming into effect in 2016. To address this upsurge in interest, we designed a series of web classes that introduce key principles, such as how to implement BIM methodology and how to manage contractual risk. Demand for training on BIM-managed projects grew, and the six-month distance learning course we developed for professionals aspiring to become certified BIM managers continues to be a draw.
Although we have responded to the increased interest in these relatively new disciplines, the greatest proportion of our construction training portfolio continues to concern contract administration. Demand has led to constant evolution of our offering as new or updated contract suites such as NEC4 become widely used.
Recent research by RICS, including focus groups and participants’ reviews of training, has highlighted the need to incorporate commercial awareness in our courses so contract managers appreciate the commercial importance of complying with terms, and are thereby able to manage a wide range of contracts related to specific business operations and marketplaces.
Shaped by standards
All RICS training is shaped by its latest standards and guidance. For example, publication of The role of the commercial manager in infrastructure guidance note in January 2017 influenced the creation of the Commercial Management in Infrastructure Programme, while the Digital systems and technology in infrastructure guidance note published this February will be incorporated into future course materials. As more systems become automated and the way data is used in infrastructure changes, we need to build this into our construction training.
Staying relevant and adapting to the industry’s evolving needs are crucial to course development. Our training around the International Construction Measurement Standards (ICMS), published last summer, changed from focusing on the suite itself to incorporate the theories behind ICMS and their practical application as professionals began to implement them.
The broader picture
In the context of the current, well-documented construction skills shortage, we have to consider how our training portfolio as a whole is best placed to support the sector in future. Construction will need 31,600 new workers a year until at least 2022 according to the latest Construction Skills Network report. At the same time, the industry’s output is expected to grow by 1.3% over the next 5 years, with 158,000 jobs created. We therefore continue to liaise with member firms to ensure we can help professionals develop the right skills to meet anticipated demand.
The way we provide our training also continues to evolve, with an overwhelming majority of our courses now online – 98% between September 2017 and February 2018. Demand is also growing for our in-house training to be delivered online as firms pursue greater flexibility and efficiency from our bespoke offering.
How Brexit will influence what we do is less clear. We don’t know how movement of people between the UK and Europe will change or whether specific skills gaps will increase. Neither do we know whether, if we stop using some EU legislation, we can upskill professionals to work with any changes, or how this will affect their projects.
However, by continually monitoring developments and working closely with our professionals, we will be able to offer a relevant and agile training portfolio that keeps pace with the evolving needs of the construction sector.
Heidi Partridge is Construction Training Product Manager at RICS
First published in RICS Construction Journal June-July 2018