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Speeches and Articles, Tony Pidgley, Inspire young People HEader

Let's inspire young people to work in our industry

Tony Pidgley, Chairman of the Berkeley Group speaking at the Lloyd's Banking Group/GLA breakfast event at City Hall

Wednesday 23rd September 2015

Good morning. It's wonderful to be here today talking about apprentices. They are the people who are going to build this city in the future. We all know that demand for housing in London has never been higher. All told, London and the South East has £96 billion of construction projects in the pipeline between now and 2017.

We rely on the building industry to deliver these homes and the infrastructure projects, from Crossrail 1 to High Speed 2. Construction is one of the UK's biggest industries. It employs 3 million people and without it this country would grind to a halt.The UK construction industry is facing a massive skills shortage. A recent study by KPMG and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry shows that 20% more construction managers, surveyors and other site roles will be needed to meet demand by 2018.

200,000 new construction jobs are required to meet demand by 2018 but only 8000 people completed construction apprenticeships in 2014.

That's why it's crucial that we recruit large numbers of young - and not so young! - people into the sector. Through apprenticeship schemes and graduate schemes. Through training on site and in colleges.

By working in partnership and by doing it ourselves.

So what is the industry doing to make sure we've got people to keep building this great global city? That's what brings us here together this morning. To hear about the ways that young Londoners can become electricians and plumbers, the site managers and the quantity surveyors of the future.

Take Berkeley. 10% of our staff are under 25 and 8% of the people on our sites are in training or apprenticeships. That's a good start. But we want to do more. So we're working with the Mayor on a project called HeadStart. This is a fantastic initiative for 16-18 year olds that tackles youth unemployment. It gets young people volunteering in the community and then guarantees them a job interview.

Berkeley has also set up a construction skills training centre at Kidbrooke Village. We are doing this in partnership with the Royal Borough of Greenwich. It involves a six week boot camp, including work experience on site. If every London borough copied this model, it would create 800 apprenticeships in one year alone.

Meanwhile, at Bromley College we invite students onto our site for taster days where they get a feel for bricklaying. It gets them excited about the job and inspired by the idea you can actually build the community you live in.

Berkeley is not alone in this kind of work. There are many companies doing great things across the city, from Pimlico Plumbers to PriceWaterhouseCoopers. But this is a challenge we must all grasp.

So let me suggest three ways forward:

First, we must communicate the benefits of working in our industry much better. We need to reassure young people that apprenticeships are a long term career investment and can lead to good pay and security. We need to show them that construction is fun. It's exciting. It's demanding. It's something you can be passionate about.

Second, we need to work together. Residential and commercial developers, major contractors and small subcontractors should get together and deliver a coordinated strategy on apprenticeships. One that ties in with the National Apprenticeship Service. And councils need to collaborate too. When it comes to negotiating s106 agreements, they should stop thinking purely in terms of getting apprenticeships for their own residents. It needs a London-wide, cross-borough approach. Construction is a nomadic industry and apprentices need to be able to follow the work.

Thirdly, and above all, we have to deliver high quality apprenticeships, not simply high numbers. Creating 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 is a fantastic goal set by the Government. But ultimately, it's only worthwhile if the training is good, there is continuity of employment and people stay in the industry.

So let me conclude. When it comes to building a home or a city, nothing gets built without teamwork.

That's why having a Mayor who gets the public and private sectors working together is so important. Who better to channel the energy of councils and companies so that we're all pulling together in the same direction?

But what I really want is to inspire young people. Let's make them an offer. Show them that building and construction is worthwhile and fun, as well as place you can make good money. What could be better than being a construction apprentice and 'earning while learning'. Learning the trade after I left school gave me a career and a future - and I don't regret it for one minute.

So let's all of us leave here with a sense of purpose and a determination to really sell the value of construction apprentices to young Londoners and to their parents.

Let's make sure that every young person who wants to learn a skill or a trade in our industry is given the support and the opportunity to make that happen.

That's a goal worth striving for.

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