Skip to content

Ideas & Observations

Building a better skills future for the construction sector

Like all sectors, the construction industry has a constant eye on skills development, Here, John Sayers, managing director at Tanfield Lea-headquartered Hodgson Sayers, and Tony Kay, president of the Northern Counties Builders Federation, discuss how digital technologies can enhance the construction sector’s perception and help bridge the skills gap.


John Sayers – managing director, Hodgson Sayers

As a long-term supporter of apprentices, we have seen many of our young team progress through the business.

And we remain positive about the opportunities that lie ahead – digital technologies being one of them.

As one of the world’s largest and most traditional industries, construction has embraced digital technology, and when this is combined with high wages, this has the potential to make the sector very attractive to young people.

We also need to integrate technology and digital innovation into learning.



More often than not, when speaking to apprentices, digital technologies and traditional methods of learning are isolated modules, meaning employers have to train their teams and learn to adjust to new ways of working.

Companies such as Hodgson Sayers rely on traditional skillsets, and trade careers can and will make an exciting new shift as workers add skills and begin to grow and change alongside their respective industries.

As a sector, we need to continue to collaborate, innovate and bridge working in isolation when it comes to implementing digital technologies into projects.

One of the key advantages of working in construction is its flexibility.

There are opportunities to work across traditional craftmanship through to digital – and it is something we must get better at promoting.


Tony Kay – president, Northern Counties Builders Federation

The Northern Counties Builders Federation continues to highlight the importance of schools and colleges when it comes to inspiring the next generation of skilled trades workers.

We recently collaborated with Hartlepool College of Further Education to highlight to employers a cohort of highly talented and ambitious trade apprentices who had completed full-time learning and were ready and very eager for full-time employment.

Hodgson Sayers attended this event, and the company is a long-time champion of the apprentice route.

The Northern Counties Builders Federation has launched an ambitious campaign to collaborate with colleges across the North East, to highlight to employers what a great crop of young people we have in the region.

As a sector, it is crucial we do all we can to bridge the disconnect with schools and tap into gifted students who are often not fully informed about the benefits of a trade apprenticeship and how the construction sector is a modern industry embracing the digital age.



Traditional construction companies have adapted to the digital age, with technologies implemented across projects.

Increasingly, building information modelling (BIM) co-ordinators liaise with design teams, architects, surveyors, engineers and project managers, and it is important we explore digital technologies at all levels – not least to enhance the image of construction and to use it as a recruitment tool.

We need to continue to work hard to change the perception of the industry, allowing it to be presented as modern and relevant.

It is a flexible sector, where opportunities enable people to work and progress in traditional craft skills, while also learning and developing digital tools and technologies alongside their trade.

Allied to the salaries and variety of work, a career in construction can bring great rewards.

Moving forward, we need to ensure schools and colleges can see the opportunities the trades present to young people, as they are a recruitment source waiting to be tapped into.