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Solid building blocks

Andrew Mourant finds out what the construction industry is doing about its skills shortage and image problem

Mention the word construction and it conjures images of beefy scaffolders and sweating brickies. But there's far more to it than that according to CITB-ConstructionSkills which is putting unprecedented energy into convincing school managers.

The Education Show will be used to hammer home the point. With an estimated 90,000 shortfall of construction workers nationally, there should be a receptive audience. Set alongside John Prescott's vision of covering the land in bricks and mortar, the job opportunities become self-evident.

CITB-ConstructionSkills - recently granted sector skill status - is out to show the huge variety of careers on offer.

"Construction has had an old-fashioned image based on boys leaving school at 16 and starting work on a building site," says Julian Humphreys, business area manager recruitment and careers. "The main reason we're attending is to demonstrate to teachers that it's a varied and dynamic industry offering diverse opportunities for young people at craft, technical and graduate level.

"There are jobs suitable for girls as well as boys. We're also showing how construction makes an excellent teaching tool that enables teachers to weave the built environment into all types of lesson plans - from science to maths and even English."

Education is a strong element of the annual National Construction Week, held in October. For instance competitions are run between schools to develop a piece of land from scratch; to show the different stages that go into construction.

"Our Education Teams, situated in 13 area offices throughout the UK, are a key resource, working with schools on a daily one-to-one basis,"says Julian. "They show teachers how to link what we provide to the national curriculum and demonstrate how our practical exercises can help explain concepts."

CITB-ConstructionSkills' debut at the show marks its big push to get the message across "to the right people at the right time". Julian will conduct two seminars introducing work-related resources and offer practical examples.

* CITB-ConstructionSkills Stand A944 www.citb.org.uk

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