16th May 2018

Learning at Work: The future for career development

There has been a lot of talk about the disappearance of “jobs for life” but, for most of us, I think that notion died some while ago. Despite an overall theme in the last 20 years, my role at the CIOB marks the sixth different career I have had. I’ve progressed from a research chemist into technology then financial services to further education and training. I believe this pattern of slightly changing track in roles will become the norm for the generation of people younger than me, particularly for the majority of us who don’t have a clear vocation.

With that in mind, we need to acknowledge that with these regular changes come challenges. When so much of our time is spent in employment, pursuing changing career goals and putting in long hours to climb up the career ladder, it can often be hard to justify, to ourselves as much as our employers, investing in training along the way. But when we’re changing roles, and even industries, much more frequently, it’s important to take time to ensure we have the necessary skills.

In recent years it has been frustrating to see the challenges facing the skills sector dismissed, with a lack of understanding on the importance of learning at work. I’ve been fortunate in all of my jobs to have been able to learn a lot, and I­­­ continue to do so. I do, however, regret having missed a few opportunities. I didn’t finish the MBA I started whilst at IBM, or do the Management Level 6 NVQ that I began to pursue – qualifications and training that could have enhanced my development as I weaved through my roles. But when there is progress; when you see the achievements and the sense of pride individuals have once they complete their training, or in our case when they become CIOB members, it makes it all worthwhile to promote such a vital aspect of employment!

The construction industry is an increasingly complex sector with technological changes, application of new materials, and the emergence of previously unheard of roles. When the Institute was set up in 1834, I doubt they had envisaged representing BIM managers or drone specialists! With complexity comes opportunity and a responsibility for the CIOB to evolve as the industry does. We need to be at the cutting edge of these changes and transitions ourselves if we expect others to follow. By being at the forefront on important topics such as Modern Slavery in Construction, as well as critical issues such as the quality of buildings, and mental health we are influencing and driving the change that our members need and want to see in the industry. This activity must be supported by the training which we, and our network of providers, provide.

That’s why, through the CIOB Academy, we continually provide new layers of training and courses, both face to face and online. We have a lot to do but are already seeing progress, with over 5000 people signing up for our ethics MOOC and we have had to put on extra instances of our online learning programmes. We want to help our members, and the construction industry, deliver to the highest standards using the best tools and resources available.

Fortunately, we’re in a privileged position to have specialist leaders among our membership who are as passionate as we are, and willing to use their expertise to equip others with the latest industry knowledge. Our recent drone webinar proved to be the most successful we’ve hosted, with over 200 people signing up in 6 hours, demonstrating an appetite from members to learn and develop in this area. However, it’s not just the distracting technological elements of the industry that change. We’ve seen legal and contractual frameworks adapt too and our training must keep up with those as well. That’s why we have new courses on JCT and contract administration to support the industry for example. We also listen to our members through our Special Interest Groups and support them in bringing change to their area of the industry.  For example, there was recognition that those entering the profession aren’t being equipped with the knowledge about how traditional and heritage builds differ to new builds and how they need to be treated. That’s why we now run a unique conservation training course and certification scheme, which gives construction professionals the skills needed in conservation and three levels of certification based on their knowledge and experience; one of the schemes developed by our members for the betterment of the industry.

The benefits that training provides for our members are quite clear, but we don’t often touch on how it also benefits the employer. I think Richard Branson said it best when he said “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”. Having a skilled, specialist workforce can only bring benefits, both financially and strategically, to the products, projects and services that you, as a company, deliver. By offering development opportunities in a role you are demonstrating to your employees that you value them, that you can recognise what they can bring to the team, and you’re therefore more likely to retain them. Your customers will then learn you have a great team to call on and the skills to deliver; that you are with them for the long term. It makes opportunities to learn at work a worthy investment of both time and resources for everyone.