U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
WORKFORCE POLICIES AND PRACTICES
Swedish National Road Administration
Sweden, with a population of 8.2 million, has 400,000 kilometers of roads. The Swedish National Road Administration (SNRA) - a unit of the Ministry of Industry, Employment, and Communications - is responsible for the entire road transport system. It also is responsible for developing and implementing road transport regulations and maintaining the 100,000 kilometers of state roads, which carry about 80 percent of the traffic.
SNRA has a staff of 6,500, down from a high of 9,000 a decade ago. Sixty percent of its workforce is expected to retire in the next 10 years. Its human resources department and line managers thus focus a great deal of effort on making the most of their existing workforce, as well as on finding the right workers when filling job vacancies.
"We must hire people who can take on a lot of responsibility and can work well with other people," said Lena Rosen, director of the 220-employee human resources department. "The key is to hire the right person, so we spend a lot of time picking the right person." Rosen considers attitude as important as skills. "The interviews and references play a big role in the determination," she said. "Testing plays a very small role."
SNRA has a close working relationship with industry. SNRA sees itself as having the responsibility for ensuring an adequate supply of qualified people for transportation jobs both at the agency and private companies, as SNRA believes that expertise in both the public and the private sectors is necessary for quality roadways. The SNRA staff concerns itself with ensuring that the needed expertise is available either in-house or from a private-sector company. The agency's development program consists of four key components:
A fifth component - for specialists - is under development.
The career choice seminar has been found to be an effective means of retaining promising young employees. The five-day seminar, aimed at developing leadership skills in young employees, is offered to a hand-picked group of employees who have worked at SNRA for five or six years and have shown great potential. During the seminar, they work intensely with an instructor to develop individual six-month plans customized to match their intrests with their potential. About 350 people have participated in the seminars.
SNRA also has developed a knowledge management strategy for the road transport sector, which it summarizes as "using new and existing knowledge to ensure that the goals in national transport policy are attained in the best possible way." The strategy is built on the following four concepts: (1)
(1) "Knowledge Management Strategy for the Road Transport Sector,"by Hans Ingvarsson, head of the R&D Division of SNRA, Dec. 19, 2000.
The public-sector SNRA has been quite innovative in applying private-sector practices. For example, it has created cost centers to improve efficiency and to better meet customer needs. Two-thirds of the SNRA staf work in one of four cost centers: training and development, ferry operations, construction and maintenance, and consulting services. Each cost center, with the exception of construction and maintenance, is charged with breaking even while operating in full competition with the market. The SNRA's regional offices are the cost centers' customers, but they are by no means captive customers. They can choose to buy services from the SNRA centers or from any private supplier. One key advantage of the cost centers, according to SNRA staff, is that they "set the benchmark for the industry on price, by ensuring that one large private company does not corner the market in a particular area of the country." The cost centers, with the exception of the construction and maintenance center, are not subsidized by the state, so their revenue must cover expenses.
The Road Sector Training and Development Center (Vägsektorns Utbildnings Centrum, or VUC) was established to provide training in core competency areas (professional skills) and community responsibility. According to Ann-Therese Albertsson, head of VUC, the center's main task is "to plan and conduct courses that ensure the development of skills and expertise to be used in current operations, as well as in the strategic development of the road transport network." SNRA gave VUC the equivalent of US$142,000 (SKr1.5 million) in start-up funds in 1997. Since then, it has operated with no subsidy, and with the expectation that it will earn at least 15 percent each year. If the center makes a larger "profit," it either transfers the money into the next year's budget (using it, for example, to develop a new course), or returns the money to its customers (who could, in essence, be considered shareholders).
Each year, more than 4,000 employees of SNRA and other companies participate in about 300 different VUC courses held at various sites across the country. Course fees and the sale of course materials provide the bulk of its income, about 70 percent of which comes from course fees collected from SNRA.
VUC's strength lies in its access to expertise available at the SNRA, according to Albertsson. On-staff experts often are hired to conduct VUC courses, and VUC reimburses the employee's department for time spent preparing and teaching the course. The requirement that VUC be self-sustaining does, however, present one problem, said Albertsson: "We sometimes can't afford to develop needed courses, because there is just not enough of a market for those courses. The income won't cover the development costs."
SNRA's motto is to "hire for competence and train for skills." Competence includes professional ability, values, and social skills. Managers, who are responsible for each staff member's competencies, develop a performance plan for each staf member. This performance plan is based on the team's plan, which is based on the department's plan, which is in turn based on the agency's strategic plan. Managers create a map for each new employee, clearly indicating which skills should be mastered if he or she wants to help the agency meet its future needs and achieve its goals. The employee thus knows what to focus on and is responsible for charting his or her own career development.
Once workers enter their first management jobs, they become involved in the new managers development program. The program helps new managers develop their management skills and realize the important role that they play in the agency's success and in their employees' success. The one-year program for experienced managers, modeled on a program developed by General Electric, is targeted at middle management people with ambition, as well as potential, for higher-level leadership positions. It provides those managers with an opportunity to reflect on and develop further their own strategic and personal management skills.
In the past, SNRA strongly encouraged managers, who typically were men, who wanted to move up the career ladder to accept assignments in SNRA's regional offices. But today there are as many women as men in the workforce, and in many cases a job transfer affects two workers - the SNRA worker and his or her spouse. SNRA staff members say many workers refuse to uproot their families and move without some guarantee that their family income will not suffer, so they sometimes work behind the scenes through an informal network of human resource personnel to find a job for the spouse.
To encourage students of all ages to consider SNRA an attractive employment option, the agency has developed a school program, which is supported by the head office, regional offices, and cost centers. Program staff members determine what types of activities are best suited for students of all ages (primary school through college) and create informational material for different target groups. "We are already doing many things directed at college and university students, but we realize now we have to start earlier," said Ingrid Jarefors of SNRA's human resources department.
A 120-page "Information Labor Market" report, which is targeted at 16-year-olds and distributed in the schools, includes a section on highway work. The cost of producing the report is shared by the government and employment agencies. The "future train" exhibit, targeted at 9thgrade students, is circulated among primary schools. Guest speakers from transportation companies and organizations participate in the roving exhibit, describing their companies' missions and discussing the types of jobs they offer. In some areas, SNRA provides support to vocational schools (as do private companies), assisting in the teaching of construction trades. Graduates of vocational schools typically encounter no problems finding a job. Private-sector companies often team up with SNRA in career-guidance programs aimed at high school and primary school students.
Swedish National Road Consulting (SweRoad), another SNRA cost center, is an attractive option for many younger Swedes interested in studying, traveling, and working in other countries. SweRoad provides a range of services to clients outside Sweden, so it is a means of attracting and retaining younger SNRA workers. "The best people want to go work for SweRoad, but they come back to us with better skills," said Karl Sicking, head of the construction and maintenance center. SweRoad can also borrow SNRA staff for short periods, allowing them to gain valuable experience working on projects in other countries.
The SNRA construction and maintenance cost center will need about 1,000 new workers in the next 10 years, and large construction firms face the same challenge, according to Jarefors. This has led private companies to team with SNRA on projects aimed at attracting primary and high school students to careers in construction.
In exit interviews conducted at SNRA, employees cited the following factors as most important to job satisfaction:
SNRA has had a difficult time filling its management jobs, which employees often perceive as being too stressful. To counter that impression, the agency empowers its employees by giving them more responsibility and by flattening the organizational structure. The resultant new employee policy has four key points:
Strong personnel laws and regulations protect workers in Sweden, and most workers belong to a union. SNRA salaries are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. The manager determines what he or she wants to pay an employee, and then negotiates with the union to reach a salary agreeable to both. Compared with the United States, the range between the highway agency's highest- and lowest-paid workers is much smaller. Most SNRA nonmanagement-level jobs pay wages comparable to those offered in the private sector. But managers in the private sector often earn more than those working for SNRA. The higher wages draw many of SNRA's younger managers to the private sector, but SNRA expects many of them to return eventually, lured back by the better working environment, retirement plan, and benefits.
To accommodate employees' personal needs, SNRA sometimes provides them with computers for their homes. By allowing, for example, parents of young children to use computers to work at home for several hours each day (usually after school is out in the afternoon), the agency is able to compete on quality-of-life issues.
NCC International is a private-sector construction and property development company in the Nordic and Baltic regions. It has 26,000 employees, and it bills itself as a "young, exciting company in which the focus is on innovation, participation, and the expertise of each employee." NCC salaries are about the same as at SNRA, but NCC promises potential employees that they will "have more fun in the private sector - you will actually build something, " said NCC President Per Nielsen. NCC places a great deal of emphasis on recruiting and retaining workers.
"We need to start attracting students to the construction industry in grammar school," said Nielsen. "Students are starting to drift away from construction and civil engineering. They're moving toward information technology and biotech careers." NCC teams with trade organizations in activities aimed at attracting high school students to careers in the construction industry. NCC also actively promotes careers at NCC to university students.
In an average year, the company's staff turnover is one to two percent. But in some years, economic conditions have forced the company to dramatically cut employees (at one point, reducing its workforce by 30 percent), usually using a "last hired, first fired" scheme. The average NCC employee is 45.4 years old, and the retirement age is 60.
The company sends Christmas cards and uses other means to let former employees know that the door is always open, should they want to return to the company "after having gained experience elsewhere."
Every technical person who joins NCC goes through a two-year training program during which he or she typically rotates through three work units and takes several courses germane to the job level. A development meeting is held each year to give the employee and supervisor an opportunity to jointly design a training plan for the employee and to evaluate the performance of both the employee and the manager. The training plan is filed in the employee's personnel file, and the human resources department then arranges for the employee to attend courses that fit his educational and training needs. NCC budgets five training days a year for each white-collar employee and 1.5 days for blue-collar workers.
Pay is based on three components: base salary for the job, individual performance (evaluated annually), and the performance of the work unit.
State and Federal Highway Agencies
Germany has three categories of publicsector employees: workers, who are responsible, for example, for road maintenance; civil service employees, who are employees or contractors; and civil servants, who, after completing a probationary period and receiving special training, are a protected class of workers who hardly can be fired. Civil servants are held in high esteem in Germany, and civil service jobs are coveted. The top-level government positions - those with "supreme power" and charged with carrying out federal law - can be filled only by civil servants. Civil servants, for example, must conduct public hearings.
Individuals interested in civil service jobs must first be accepted into a two-year preparatory course, during which time they will be employed in a state administrative office and paid subsistence wages. Only two to three percent of university graduates participate in this rigorous training program. At the end of the two-year program, the individual must pass an examination before becoming eligible to serve as a civil servant at the federal, state, or local level.
The goal of the road transport sector is to have a highly qualified workforce, said Hans Mundry of the Ministry of Transport, Building, and Housing, and this goal has been achieved. Technical professionals in the public-service sector must have three attributes, according to Mundry: they must be "able and knowledgeable, they must have courage, and they must have spirit, to allow for rationalization and compromise."
High school graduates who want to become civil engineers have two options for postsecondary education. They can attend the four-year polytechnic university (Fachochschule), which provides a 14-month program of training in planning, construction, maintenance, and administration; or they can attend the five-year technical university. Most choose the more practical Fachochschule, where they learn "how to do the job." Those who opt for the more research-oriented technical university are taught how to be problem solvers and effective managers. Since 1995, however, the number of people studying at both schools has dropped, because the jobs for which the schools prepare students are not considered as interesting as those in information technology.
A growing concern among civil service agencies and private-sector companies in Germany is the length of time it takes for a university student to finish school. Thirteen years of schooling normally is followed by five or six years at a university, and then the graduate must perform one year of military or other service. This means that young people are typically 26 years old - with no practical experience - before they are eligible to start the two-year preparatory program for civil service jobs. They are 28 years old before they are ready to start their careers. "This is a growing concern for us," said Jurg Sparmann, president of the Hessian State Road Directorate (Hessisches Landesant, or HSVV). "We would like to shorten the time period, but we're also facing the fact that as technology increases, it requires more education."
The recent financial situation in Germany has resulted in a significant decrease in tax revenue. As a result, there is less money for transportation. This has caused the department to make plans for cutting the workforce by at least 400 people over the next four years and is prompting the German states (lander) to "abolish our old household-oriented budget system," said Horst Hanke, a director at HSVV and formerly in charge of its human resources department.
The department is developing cost-management systems, which should be in place by 2008. Under the new systems, the transport department will offer politicians a product, such as a new road, at a certain price, and then must deliver that product at the agreed-on price. By being forced to focus on the bottom line, the transport department will by necessity find the most economical means of project delivery - determining, for example, whether to do the work itself or outsource it. This is in marked contrast to the traditional way of selecting and building transport projects in Germany, where transport staff typically are expected to "do a good job in a reasonable amount of time," with little regard for cost. It will require a new type of manager, according to Hanke. "Today, we know if a job is done well, but we have no idea of the true project cost, including staff cost," he said. "In the future, we will set a budget for a job, and we will then have to stay within that budget. We will need to train people in this new way of thinking."
Hanke said it no longer will be enough to be a good engineer on HSVV's staff. "Our workers will also have to have social competence and soft skills," he said. The agency's training programs have been revised to emphasize these new skills.
A qualifications profile is developed for each employee, showing the employee's competencies compared to those required for each job level. These profiles are added to each employee's personnel files, and they prove helpful when the agency seeks to fill a staff position.
Efforts also are made to integrate an employee's performance and development.
A mandatory one-hour meeting between the team leader and each team member is conducted each year, during which time they discuss performance, pay, future goals, and training. This is a confidential, undocumented meeting, and both parties are encouraged to be open and truthful.
Transport department salaries are set in accordance with the German BAT, which is the federal pay scale for public service jobs. Salaries are categorized into the three levels of employment: workers, civil service employees, and civil servants. Civil servants are judged on their performance and competencies. "We would like to switch to a system that evaluates them as we evaluate them internally, with profiles," said Sparmann. "That will provide clarity and transparency, but it will take years to change."
The federal transport department frequently hires from among the state transport ranks. Department officials explain that this hiring practice not only ensures that they get talented, experienced people, but also helps to build better lines of communication and cooperation between the state and federal agencies and to "overcome any animosity" between state and federal workers.
Germany has a dual education system, in which students are placed in academic or vocational education tracks. As in Sweden, a university education is free to students who pass the entrance exam. Students in the vocational track graduate at 16, and at that point they enter a three-year apprenticeship program. Apprenticeship programs typically have three components:
Once apprentices pass a final exam, they join the workforce.
Hans Grimmig GmbH
The owners of Hans Grimmig GmbH, a small, family-run construction company in Germany, say the country's low unemployment rate is an impediment to recruiting engineers. To attract and retain good people, the company fosters a family-like atmosphere and strives to show that management personally cares for each employee. It also provides company cars and a profit-sharing plan. "Our main goal is to instill staff with the notion that they don't 'go to work,' but rather go 'to their company,'" said Dieter Grimmig. "We want them to spend the company's money as if it were their own."
Company managers also complained about the country's lengthy educational system. The company recruits from both the Fachochschule and the technical university, but tends to hire more from the technical university. Newly hired civil engineers go through a three- to six-month probationary period, which gives the company time to see if they have the appropriate drive, commitment, and ability to work well under pressure. Those who stay become involved, committed employees, said Grimmig.
The company says it is important to hire even when the company does not have job openings. "There are not enough good people to go around," said Grimmig. "If we find good people, we hire them, even if we don't have a job opening. We tell our employees that we want to be the best company - and that requires top personnel and equipment."
A trade association of construction companies runs a training center offeringa series of 42week apprenticeships in construction trades and directs a programaimed at encouraging young people to choose careers in the construction industry.Since 1998, a new vocational academy has offered a three-year engineering studiesprogram. This program, which consists of a mix of practical experience and academicstudy, has proven popular with young workers and employers.
Not only is France facing increasing numbers of retirements, but recent legislation also cut the standard workweek from 39 to 35 hours. This forces agencies to become more productive - to, as one person put it, "recruit more brains than workers."
There are about 100,000 civil service positions in France, where civil servants are known as "agents" and top-level civil servants are referred to as "engineers." The term "engineer" has a much broader meaning than in the United States, and it is reserved for managers and leaders who have graduated from a select group of universities.
Competition for civil service jobs is keen. All civil service positions are filled through a competitive process. Candidates must pass a written test and then undergo an oral examination to determine if they are suited for a particular job. This process, intended to prevent nepotism and cronyism, does not always result in the best person being hired for a job, according to several highway managers in France. Training is thus seen as an important counterbalance to the recruitment process.
The Ministry of Equipment takes training seriously and maintains its own training network, including schools and universities, training centers, and intradepartmental training programs. A database called Omesper is used to keep track of each employee's competencies, such as degree, training completed, and positions held. According to Pascal Martin-Gousset of the Ministry of Equipment, the agency's training programs have allowed many of its staff to become accomplished managers, but sometimes at the expense of their technical expertise. He stressed that the ministry needs people with a combination of management skills and technical expertise.
After two years in preparatory classes at a university, students can compete for a position in one of the ministry's prestigious schools. Those selected are paid civil service wages while they study. The problem, according to the ministry, is keeping graduates on the ministry's payroll, as private industry goes after these qualified, well-trained young people aggressively. Starting salaries are comparable for public- and private-sector jobs, but the public sector is said to ofer young technical specialists more responsibility early in their careers. About a third of new graduates leave government service to accept positions in the private sector. Their new employers must then reimburse the government for the cost of their education. Most of those who leave the civil service remain in the private sector, as wage increases usually are greater than in the public sector.
A strong tie exists between the government and universities in France. The ministries are, in fact, direct sponsors of some of the nation's most prestigious colleges. Most notable of these is the National School of Bridges and Roads (L'Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausses, or ENPC), founded in 1747. It accepts, through a very competitive process, only the best and brightest students. Its faculty members not only teach, but also conduct research for the Ministry of Equipment and private companies, allowing them to bring a real-world perspective to the classroom. About half of the school's students come from the Ministry of Equipment.
The National School for Equipment Technicians (L'Ecole Nationale des Techniciens, or ENTE), created in 1972, offers courses in basic science, work organization, and human behavior. It is designed to train technicians to work in all departments of the Ministry of Equipment. Its students, selected through a competitive process, come from the ranks of the ministry, as well as from other agencies and the public. Some students have never worked before, while others are in entry-level ministry positions. Those who are admitted but who do not work for the ministry are made civil service interns, who are then paid by the ministry and guaranteed a job once they finish the program. The training takes place over a one- to two-year period, depending on a student's credentials and background.
The National School of Public Works (L'Ecole Nationale des Travaux Publics de L'Etat, or ENTPE) offers a three-year graduate program for managers and engineers. Created in 1954, 80 percent of its students are Ministry of Equipment employees. Training fields include transportation and traffic studies (a growing program), water management, urban planning and management, and social sciences and personnel management. It also offers an international department, which hosts students from other countries and sends French students abroad for training.
Continuing Education Programs
A subsidiary of the National School of Bridges and Roads - the Ponts Formation - offers continuing education programs for engineers with technical and scientific expertise and a good knowledge of management and economics. The school is self-supporting and strives to achieve a two percent profit each year. Students pay their own tuition. Each year, 200 short (one-to-four-day) training courses and 30 longer sessions (ranging from two to four weeks and geared for foreigners) are conducted. Key topics include transport and the economy, procurement, project management, and environmental impact assessment. The requirement that the school be self-supporting, however, sometimes keeps it from developing and offering a course that is needed but would attract only a small number of students.
Because technicians are likely to change jobs several times during their careers, they are trained in more general skills first. "The students are eager to learn cold, hard facts, and they find it somewhat destabilizing to be taught these softer skills at first," said Bernard Gambini, director of the Ponts Formation. "But those skills are just as important to their future careers and success."
Ten intergovernmental centers for vocational training (CIFPs) provide continuing education programs for central administration employees, including the Ministry of Equipment. The CIFP for Paris has four main missions:
Training accounts for 80 percent of the activities of the CIFP for Paris, which has a budget of FRF13 million (US$1.7 million) and a staff of 30.
The focus of the Highways Agency - an executive agency of the Department of the Environment, Transport, and the Regions - has shifted dramatically in response to a government-issued 10-year transport policy. "The government has given the Highways Agency a new role so that it can play a central role in developing better services to road users and non-users alike, improving safety, tackling noise, and protecting the environment," said Highways Agency Chief Executive Lawrie Haynes. "From now on, it will become a network operator by more actively managing roads and ensuring motorways and trunk roads work more closely with other transport systems." (2)
(2) An Introduction to the Highways Agency. April 20, 1999. (Booklet.)
That 10-year policy has spawned three Highways Agency plans:
One of the agency's eight key objectives is to "be a good employer, managing the business efficiently and effectively, seeking continuous improvement." In the past, the agency's mission centered on excellence in engineering and technologies. Now, the emphasis is on excellence in people - and that has made finding and retaining good employees a high priority task.
To encourage employees to strive for personal and career success, every permanent staff member is given a "Planning for Success" folder. The folder includes the following:
A new, simple, eight-band pay structure covers all agency staff. A staff member's progression through the appropriate pay band is linked to his or her performance. The pay band is determined by the "weight" or quality of the job held.
Agency staff members have made a deliberate shift to an increased use of the word "services," as in "providing good services" to customers both inside and outside the agency. They have identified new skill areas needed on their staff, including transport planning, customer care, communication, procurement and negotiating, contract management, business management, and strategic planning. "The agency is moving toward hiring more people with a broad range of skills, rather than specialists that then need to be trained in the soft skills," said Highways Agency engineer Dave Clark. The main role of engineers is shifting to that of contract managers. This is a change that is not always well received by many of the agency's staff engineers, who prefer to work at the project site rather than deal with paperwork in the office.
The Highways Agency's workforce is aging. Most of its 1,700 employees joined the staff in the 1960s through 1980s, when it was conducting a huge construction program. Most of those people will begin retiring in the next five years or so. The agency is not yet experiencing major recruitment or retention problems, but that is expected to change around 2010 as the number of retirees grows. Until about four years ago, Highways Agency staff was made up predominately of engineers and technicians. Now, however, most of the engineering and construction work is being done by private-sector companies, and the number of Highways Agency staff skilled in human resources, accounting, and procurement is increasing. Today, 67 percent of agency staff are administrators, 28 percent are engineering specialists, and five percent are environmentalists. "We've had a lot of change in the past 10 years, and the amount of change is now accelerating. We need to equip people in the necessary skills," said Mel Nash, Highways Agency division head. "But we must do this while still delivering on the business side. The ministry is increasingly interested in how we deliver, not just what we deliver."
The agency's traditional skills - including engineering, project management, technical expertise, civil service values, and "delivering the business" - are no longer enough. Now, they must be augmented with expertise and skills in the following areas:
"We tended before to operate in silos," said Nash. "Now, we're beginning to break those barriers down, to encourage people to work in other departments, and to think outside their silo."
The Highways Agency is committed to the professional development of its staf, as evidenced by its GBP1.8 million training budget (US $2.6 million, or an average of $1,500 per employee), dedicated training staff, cadre of outside consultants, and network of learning resource centers.
Nash cited leadership skills as a key issue for the organization. "Developing leadership skills has not been a priority for the organization," he said. "Instead, technical skills have been seen as the way to the top of the organization - and if you happened, by chance, to have leadership skills, that was a bonus."
The agency has taken several steps to help the staff develop its leadership and management skills, including providing the following:
(3) Leadership Development Scheme. Career Highways Agency brochure. Undated.
The role of the human resources planning team is to contribute to the agency objective of "having the right people, at the right place, at the right time." The department strives to be proactive, rather than reactive, according to Gary Freer, team leader of human resource planning. The department uses a spreadsheet system to estimate future needs based on past trends, staffing, and other information. This system, said Freer, is helpful, but its basis in a steady-state scenario limits its utility. A software tool is in the works that will allow the department to forecast what its workforce needs would be were it to take on a particular project or program.
The Highways Agency is accredited by "Investors in People," a government-sponsored program aimed at encouraging employers to develop the skills of their staff and thereby improve business and economic performance. The program, which has been implemented throughout the United Kingdom in organizations ranging from hotels to manufacturers, sets a level of good practice for improving an organization's performance through its people.
Accreditation recognizes that the organization:
To build interest in transportation careers among younger students, the Highways Agency sponsors a "take your sons and daughters to work day," and it staffs a stand at employment fairs. The Institution of Civil Engineers serves as a recruitment tool for the profession, regularly sending its regional training officers to visit college students.
Construction Industry Training Board
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) was established by statute and is funded by a levy on the construction industry. It provides training in the construction trades for young adults (i.e., those just entering the workforce) and adults. The CITB's objective is to "promote and facilitate the training of suficient people in the skills needed for a worldclass construction industry." The levy (0.25 percent of wages paid by the larger employers in the construction industry) is supplanted by income from training activities and government agencies. The levy is well accepted by the industry and, according to CITB, "is the fairest way of gathering funds from individual employers in order to share the cost of training in a mobile industry. This maintains a solid skills base and ultimately benefits all employers in the long term."
CITB offers apprenticeships, career advice to young students, curriculum materials for vocational training, and a nationwide network of more than 120 Curriculum Centers, which support primary and secondary school learning through the medium of construction. The largest portion of the CITB budget, however, goes to grants given to employers who train their own employees. The grants do not cover the total training cost, but they reward companies that provide training for their workers. About 15,000 employers received grants in 2000. Even small companies exempt from the levy benefit from grants, sometimes earning substantial amounts because they run large apprenticeship and training programs. According to CITB, the construction industry needs to recruit 64,000 people each year merely to maintain its workforce of laborers, crafts people, construction managers, and professionals. When one allows for growth, the number jumps to 74,000. The industry faces a huge task: recruiting and training some 370,000 new people over the next five years, while providing training and other resources to improve the skills of the existing workforce.
CITB Chief Executive Peter Lobban commented that a focus group found interest in information technology careers waning among young people. "They see it as a sweatshop industry that doesn't do anything, so interest in construction is growing," he said. "We heard, 'we want to see your heroes,' so we created a series of recruiting posters that feature young heroes in the construction field." CITB also trains and sponsors these people, so that they can go into schools and talk to students about career opportunities in construction.
Construction Industry Research and Information Association
The Construction Industry Research and Information Association (CIRIA) is a memberbased independent research association founded in 1960. Its agenda and activities are driven by practitioners in industry and government, and today those activities predominantly center around collaborative research leading to publications and workshops on best practices. CIRIA's role, according to Peter Bransby, director general of the association, is to "improve the performance of all those concerned with construction and the environment." In 2000, the association had 48 employees and 623 subscribing organizations, and it conducted 47 research projects and produced 53 publications.
Ideas for CIRIA projects come from a variety of people and organizations. A committee reviews proposals to determine if there is a real need among practitioners for such a project. If the decision is yes, the committee develops a scope of work and seeks funding from industry and the government. A typical project resulting in a report would cost CIRIA the equivalent about US$140,000 and take 18 months to complete.
Calls for tenders, which are advertised on the Web, elicit intense competition. CIRIA members are accorded a slight advantage in the selection process. Even though most contractors fully expect to lose money on these projects, they seek them because of the prestige and because the projects "pay them to learn." For example, one contractor was paid the equivalent of US$56,000, but spent the equivalent of US$282,000 assembling a topnotch team to conduct the work. Nonetheless, the contractor said it was "the best investment he ever made."
Despite access to state-of-the-art computers, electronics, and software, practitioners still prefer that CIRIA reports be furnished in printed form rather than electronic form. "They want to be able to flip through the reports, and to keep them in the maintenance shop or truck if necessary," said Bransby.
CIRIA encourages and sustains practitioner networks as mechanisms for sharing knowledge. For example, the Construction Productivity Network was established to allow practitioners to learn from one another and to improve productivity in the industry by sharing expertise and knowledge. CIRIA has found small workshops (no more than 20 people) to be popular and effective. The three- to four-hour workshops typically begin with a session on the latest developments in a particular area, such as performance measurements, followed by open debate and discussion. "Key to their success is the fact that no names are recorded in the workshop notes, so people feel free to say anything, without fear of being embarrassed," said Bransby. "They enjoy talking frankly with other professionals grappling with the same issues and problems." Workshop notes are distributed to participants and made available to others. As popular as the workshops are, most participants are not willing to pay much for them, so CIRIA subsidizes them substantially.
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