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Collaboration, competence assurance and digital skills all came out as key factors for a successful water industry at British Water’s ‘Addressing the Skills Gap’ conference at Cranfield University.

Andy Brown, Chief Operating Officer at the ECITB, chaired the Training & Development Panel at the event.

He said: “The challenges facing the water industry reflect those seen right across the engineering construction industry.  It is essential sectors do not work in silos but rather seek to collaborate to help alleviate some of the workforce issues that we are facing.

“The industry is facing real challenges with framework contractors clashing with water companies over delayed or cancelled capital projects. The Project Collaboration Toolkit, collaborative working agreements and collaborative skills training would bring tangible benefits to the water industry.”

Delegates at British Water’s ‘Addressing the Skills Gap’ conference at Cranfield University listening to the keynote address.

The panel discussed the benefits of competence assurance.  The panel agreed that ensuring workers have common technical skills and competencies supports workforce agility and resilience by enabling contractors to work across sectors. It can also help alleviate cash flow problems associated with water companies scheduling project work to the end of the asset management plan five-year cycle.

On skills Andy added: “Digital skills are fundamental for those involved in water sector asset management. The ability to analyse data from a variety of sources including digital twins, remote sensor monitoring and drone technology will be key to creating the necessary efficiencies within the sector.”

The conference looked at Building the Talent Pool for Now and the Future in the first of a two-part series.  Part two (date to be announced) will explore how well the industry has progressed against its actions and look at what more needs to be done collaboratively across the sector to amplify impact.

The Training & Development Panel at the ‘Addressing the Skills Gap’ conference.

Lila Thompson CEO at British Water said: “British Water is delighted to have delivered its first Addressing the Skills Gaps conference in partnership with Cranfield University and supported by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and the Institute of Water.

“There is an urgent need to address the skills gap. With 20% of professionals due to retire over the next two decades, there is a significant opportunity to capture their knowledge to upskill staff, attract a diverse range of talent (including people from neuro diverse and black and minority ethnic backgrounds) and narrate the fact that water sits at the heart of climate change.

“The latter alone should significantly help to attract talent keen to find solutions to tackle impacts of increasing weather volatility and to improve environmental performance.”

Other panel members who spoke at the event included Darren Eckford, Director of Learning and Development at CIWEM; Donna Davies, Digital Skills & Education Lead at Skewb Ltd; Martyn Johnson, ECITB’s Head of Strategic Engagement South & Wales; Tony Maplesden, author of ECITB’s Project Collaboration Toolkit and Guy Hazlehurst, Director at the National College for Nuclear and EDF’s Workforce Development Lead for Sizewell C.

British Water is the water industry’s main trade association. The conference was attended by water companies, contractors, and trade associations.

Read more on British Water’s Addressing the Skills Gap conference

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