Comment – Shooting ourselves in the foot…?

Industry veteran decries four-fold hike in training costs.

Along with death and taxes, a skills shortage within the UK demolition and construction sectors is one of life’s great certainties.

Now that the industry is returning to work full-time after the COVID-19 crisis, it is likely that we will once again find ourselves hampered and hamstrung by a shortage of operatives to carry out all the work that placed was on hold during the pandemic and the ensuing lockdown.

Companies will be understandably reluctant to employ and train new operatives until they see firm orders and signs of a brighter future. Conversely, they will need to increase operative numbers to meet current workloads.

The UK Government has announced a number of packages to help and bolster the economy including more apprenticeships. But those measures offer precious little to help the demolition fraternity.

So is it time to radically rethink recruitment at grass roots level in the industry?

To answer that question, DemolitionNews reached out to a respected industry veteran for his views. Given the forthright nature of his response, we have chosen to protect his anonymity.

“Personally – and I stress that the view is a personal one and not of my employer or any organisation – I think we can make a massive difference with recruitment into the industry by going back to basics for new starters. Five years or so ago someone wanting to start in the industry could fund his initial training and ring round the local companies and look for a ‘start’ to earn a wage and prove their worth to his would-be employer for around £90.00. They would book themselves onto a £70.00 one-day course local to them that was delivered by an industry veteran. That course included a half-day asbestos awareness with real examples of what could be found on site; and a half-day health and safety awareness on what could harm them and their colleagues on a demolition site. On completion of the course, they could sit and pass the £21.00 CSCS health & safety test and they were good to go. The total cost of making themselves ‘work-ready’ was £91.00,” he explains. “The difference now is that to be good to go, they have to find and fund the following. A £100.00 half-day asbestos awareness course delivered by an approved supplier. A £225.00 full-day CCDO Labourer Green Card Course. And a £21.00 CSCS touchscreen test. That’s a total cost of £346.00, a near four-fold increase in just five years; an increase that puts the job well out of reach for the average person who is currently out of work or on low income.”

So why the increase? Are trainers being paid more per course for delivery? No. Have venue costs increased four-fold in that time? No. Has the course content been radically changed? Apparently not.

Our industry veteran is in no doubt over why the cost of joining the sector have sky-rocketed. “The costs have gone up simply because the card provider – and there is only one – has decreed that they will increase. They have risen by increasing dramatically the licensing cost to be a training provider and thereby increasing the cost to the individual booking the course,” he says. “Given the situation in which the wider demolition industry finds itself, the National Demolition Training Group should pledge that – for the next three years – all basic entry-level training will be provided for a lump sum £100.00. They could use the slogan ‘Get started in demolition for less than the price of a pair of new trainers’. The reduction in cost will not decimate the NDTG’s revenue, as the other courses in its portfolio will still be at the normal prices. But it will get people off the dole and into employment in a fantastic industry that offers variety, the ability to learn a trade and a better than basic wage. It is time for the industry leaders to lead and recruit the next generation of demolition operative at little cost to the new starter or the employer.”