Alan Brown talks to Showhouse magazine

Our Chief Executive Alan Brown talks to Showhouse magazine for their latest Careers supplement.

CALA Group. 20 June 2017

How popular has your apprenticeships scheme been (in conjunction with The Prince’s Trust) and how easy is it to recruit for the positions?

One of the big advantages about a career in housebuilding is its versatility and the fact that there are a number of different entry routes. Apprenticeships are a great way to start a career in the construction industry and provide the opportunity to choose from a number of different disciplines. We currently employ apprentices both on our sites and within our office functions such as IT and Surveying. 

Last year, we also partnered with The Prince’s Trust to help disadvantaged unemployed young people take their first steps into the construction industry with valuable training and work experience.   We ran two pilots of the trust’s ‘Get Into Construction’ initiative in Edinburgh and North London which resulted in 14 young people securing an apprenticeship with CALA or one of our sub-contractors.  

It’s clear from the feedback we received from the teams on site that these young people jumped at the chance to make the most of this opportunity. The fact that 14 out of the 16 trainees involved were offered apprenticeships is a great testament to the impact these programmes can have. We recently launched another ‘Get Into Construction’ programme in west of Scotland and 90% of the applicants have now been offered an apprenticeship. A further programme is planned for later in the year with our Thames region. We are also looking other ways of working with The Prince’s Trust to help support young people develop their skills and find career opportunities within the construction industry.  

Alan Brown CALA HomesCALA are encouraging ‘year in industry’ placements for graduates, how successful has that been for you and again, how do you go about letting the potential candidates know of this scheme?

Graduate programmes play a key role in providing the skilled workforce needed to reinvigorate and grow the housebuilding sector.  Our Graduate Development programme is now in its third year and is going from strength to strength with a record number of high calibre applicants each year.  The programme recruits graduates to work across our Construction, Land, Commercial, Technical and Sales functions. It provides candidates with a comprehensive induction and training which will equip them with the necessary skills to embark on an aspiring career path within the housebuilding sector.  Many of our original graduates are still employed within the business and are valuable assets to the team.

When it comes to recruiting applicants we work closely with a number of universities across the country, exhibit at careers fairs and workshops, as well as promoting the scheme on social media and graduate job boards. We increasingly find a larger number of speculative applications, from people who understand what CALA stands for and want to work with us.

We also continue to work with schools locally, to encourage more young people into the industry and have supported a number of students with a sandwich placement as part of their University degree. Some of these people have then joined the business as part of our Graduate Programme or as an employee in a particular region.

Do you think the industry suffers from a shortage of skills and if so, where is that most critical (e.g. not enough bricklayers/architects/buyers)?

The construction industry faces a huge challenge – a significant proportion of our skilled workforce is approaching retirement and the number of new workers joining the sector is simply not keeping up with the demand.   

As a career choice, construction unfairly suffers from an image problem, particularly amongst young people.  This has had detrimental impact on businesses’ ability to recruit and retain people with the right type of skills.  The shortage of skilled trades is most evident when it comes to recruiting bricklayers and joiners.  Quantity surveyors and buyers are also in short supply across the industry. 
What, if anything, do you think the industry could do as a whole to help encourage more talent, of all ages, into the industry?

Housebuilding offers a wide range of exciting, well paid career opportunities and this is the message that we must get out if we are to attract new talent.  Experienced, skilled professionals are in high demand and industry wages are becoming increasingly attractive.  In fact, surveys by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors show that those working in construction and property have seen a pay increase of more than 6% in recent years, which is three times the national average. 

There needs to be a big push from the whole sector, supported by government, to improve the image of construction and communicate the range of professional careers and personal growth opportunities involved in this fast moving sector. Housebuilding offers challenging and rewarding roles, the opportunity to work as a team with other specialists, fantastic career progression and competitive salaries.   

The HBF’s Home Building Skills Partnership (HBSP) is a great example of how the industry is working together to tackle the skills shortage and something which as a business we are proactively supporting. The programme focuses on attracting new people into the industry and providing focussed training to deliver the qualified workforce we need both now and in the future.    

As well as encouraging young people into construction, we also need to look at recruiting from other industries. In recent years we have successfully recruited a number of professional staff who don’t have a background in the housebuilding industry, but have relevant and transferable skills and qualifications.  

Recruiting new talent is obviously key to the future of the construction industry but retaining high calibre staff is also paramount. We invest heavily in training, supporting a number of our employees in the completion of nationally recognised qualifications specific to their field.