Group - Summit aims to build skills for the future
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Summit aims to build skills for the future

With a growing construction skills gap in Kent, EKC Group and partners Pettit Group and Jenner Group are set to hold a summit which hopes to find new ways of developing the employees of the future.

The event, which takes place on Wednesday 9 May, aims to develop a collaborative approach between education and industry. New homes, infrastructure and places of work have never been of greater importance, but to build them the construction sector needs a steady supply of skilled employees.

The organisers believe the best way to unlock Kent’s potential growth is through partnerships between education and industry. Developing a pipeline of highly skilled workers is key to ensuring the construction sector can prosper, and our county’s economy can continue to flourish. However, there needs to be genuine collaboration, with industry working in partnership with education to deliver the best results

Paul Sayers, Executive Director Strategy and Partnerships at EKC Group, said: “As a large group of further education colleges we want to deliver the right provision to ensure our local economies can keep growing. The construction sector is facing a significant skills gap in the coming years and we want to help close that by working in partnership with industry to make sure we’re developing the skills which employers need moving forward. This summit will be the starting point for this collaborative work with the sector, which will help to secure the future prosperity for our students, the construction industry and our wider communities for years to come.”

Simon Pettit is the owner of Pettit Group, a large construction and civil engineering company based in Kent, and a former senior quantity surveyor for Balfour Beatty, the UK’s largest construction company.

Mr Pettit, whose Group is sponsoring the summit, said: “I see this summit is crucial, due to local and national demand for skilled building and civil engineering trades. This is the opportunity for all involved to come together to discuss ways forward for a steady pipeline of skilled workers.

“Currently, construction companies of varying sizes are struggling to employ and retain trades for projects in the south east area. This has been in part, the attraction of Kent trades people to some of the enormous national infrastructure projects such as Hinckley point nuclear build.

“Secondly, the current extremely high value projects on our doorstep including Dover Docks regeneration, National Grid’s Nemo link in Ramsgate and the Kent renewable energy plant in Sandwich, all of which are a strain on trades supply and does not look like letting up with Damhead Creek, Lower Thames tunnel, the next phase of Thanet offshore wind farm and new road and rail infrastructure on the horizon.

“Finally, add the high levels of planning agreements for new housing in the area and the uncertainty over European trades supply with Brexit looming and you can see that we could be heading for some very real project delivery issues without some collaboration of all interested parties. We either work together on the solution, or everyone fights for the same pool of skilled labour, which will ultimately result in higher build costs.

“This summit is that opportunity to get senior management from companies of varying sizes around the table to discuss the way forward.”

The summit will bring together industry leaders and education, with roundtable discussion on how to grow the employees of the future.

Ella Brocklebank, business development manager at Jenner Group – co-sponsors of the summit – said she believed partnerships were a crucial ingredient to combatting the skills shortage in the future.

She said: “Addressing the ever-expanding skills gap that is so prevalent throughout the construction industry, is a vital responsibility for us all. 

“Together we must work to break down the barriers and negative misperceptions of construction so that we can inspire future generations to consider our industry and the wealth of exciting opportunities it offers.  Jenner Group, as an award-winning and longstanding Kent Contractor, are fully committed to safeguarding the future of our industry by encouraging and nurturing new talent and are delighted to support events such as the Construction Skills Summit in doing so.”