The construction skills gap crisis took a bit of a U-turn last year with the introduction of the House Building Degree, which was set up by Redrow in conjunction with Liverpool John Moores University and Coleg Cambria in Wrexham, to tackle the growing shortage of workers in construction. New home builds are a hot topic on the political register, and with this government pledging to build 300,000 new homes a year, Redrow sees their new degree course as an opportunity to help achieve these targets. Although this degree is not going to solve the skills gap issues faced by construction, it is certainly a step in the right direction, especially as the emphasis on students today is to gain academic qualifications, most notably at degree level.
What does the degree cover?
The first cohort of students commenced their course in September last year. The three-year course will cover six modules giving them a full overview of house building skills including housebuilding quality, project management, health and safety, business skills, negotiation as well as covering the relevant aspects of law, economics and mathematics. Although most of the learning will be ‘on the job’, there is an element of classroom work that needs to be undertaken, as well as examinations, on-site assessments, coursework and a final year dissertation project.
Although the House Building degree is still in its infancy, it is hoped that it will be rolled out to other house builders over time, but there is no time like the present to get yourself in a good position to be accepted on to a course when the time comes. Like with all degree courses, there is a minimum entry criteria that needs to be met in the form of any level three qualification or a minimum of five years’ industry experience, so getting yourself on a construction apprenticeship or enrolled on a construction course in college now will stand you in good stead when the degree becomes readily available.
Many people ask what the benefits of doing an on the job degree are, and the answer is – many! Firstly, there is the tuition cost which is normally picked up by the employer when you are working and studying for them. With university fees running at almost £10,000 a year, having this expense carried by your employer is going to save you years of paying back loan fees. There is also the practical experience that really helps you to lock in the theoretical side of studying for a qualification. When we learn by reading alone, it can be hard to imagine what the practical elements of a task actually involve. In everyday life, even a simple task can sometimes offer unexpected complications and having real-time experience of the house building process can only serve you better in the future. You will be earning a wage, which is especially important for older students who already have financial obligations that need to be met.
This new house building degree is being hailed as a real opportunity for employers to ensure they have the right people with the right skills to ensure future productivity and as a proactive career path for construction workers. Moreover, it is an opportunity for the younger generation who are interested in a career in house building to gain a degree qualification that would not otherwise have been available and this, in turn, could lead to a tightening in the skills gap that threatens the future of the new home build targets of the future.