Richard Semple at the BuildForce launch

Ciara writes:

Last Tuesday evening I attended the launch of BuildForce at the Tower of London.

Laura (Perry, HR manager), Chris (Ryan, VGC Labour Solutions director), Stephen (Burns, business development director) and I were all really pleased to be there. It was the starting point for an important new programme to help ex-services personnel into construction and engineering. (We can just be seen at 2.10 in the video on the BuildForce home page – the video is worth watching anyway.)

The event was well attended, with senior people from all of the main contractors and also from industry and government bodies.

Andrew Parker, director of defence for Morgan Sindall and ex-RAF programme manager, spoke about the work that the BuildForce steering group are doing to connect construction companies and the military. He also talked about the transferable skills of military personnel.

Mark Noonan, CITB industry relations manager, said that the CITB are providing substantial funding for this programme so that we can start plugging the skills gap.

A second career

Major General Richard Semple CBE, director of information for the army and former royal engineer, described the two-year transition period for people leaving the military.

He said that he had been in the army 30 years and his last formal job interview was 30 years ago. Forces personnel at all levels need support in developing their skills to gain employment and make the transition to civilian life. Even after 30 years of leading staff at a senior level the thought of an interview or a second career can be daunting.

Forces personnel have many transferable skills which are required within the construction industry: leadership, motivation, technical skills as well as softer skills. Above all their motivation is to get the job done efficiently and follow the instructions given.

The forces are not limited to construction-specific skills: they include logistics people, drivers, administration staff and IT management. “As military people, we bring strong leadership and management skills – we’re not all marchy up and down and shouty.”

Skills shortage

Mark Farmer, author of the Farmer review on construction ‘Modernise or Die’, was the final speaker. He said that while the industry has discussed a skills shortage for years, we are not far off the crisis point.

“Over the next 10 years one in four people will leave the industry through retirement. The loss of 25% of our industry is a major problem as a standalone challenge. However, combined with the impact of Brexit, it will have a disproportionate effect on the industry, at a time when we need to invest in infrastructure spending.”

His report is well worth a read.


BuildForce charterWe are discussing the best ways for us to support BuildForce.

One of these is providing mentors: we are identifying people within the VGC Group who could mentor service leavers. Mentors will offer personal advice, guidance on how the industry works, and what options could be open to them. We would also support them as they make the transition to civilian life.

Ciara Pryce
Author: Ciara Pryce, group services director

At the end of the evening we were proud to sign the BuildForce charter (left).

Main photograph: Major General Richard Semple CBE, with Andrew Parker on the right of the photo.


[Mark Farmer’s speech is now available to watch on YouTube.]

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