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Experience is the best teacher

I’ve learnt a lot through experience.

The support I’ve had from older colleagues throughout my career has been a great encouragement to me, from starting out as a gas apprentice, to first becoming a Chief Executive, a role I found extremely tough in my early days.

The UK’s construction industry has vast experience to draw from. The CIOB’s report Diversity and Inclusion in Construction (PDF)  states that over 30% of the workforce is aged 50 and over. 

And while an older workforce is often, and rightly seen as a major issue for obvious reasons, it’s worth considering the other side of the coin, the benefits a wealth of knowledge can bring.

This is because construction veterans have the type of skills which, to put it bluntly, can’t be found in books.

It would be an incredible shame if their savvy was not passed on to the new generation of workers. So how can we ensure this knowledge isn’t wasted?

One solution is to train older construction workers to become highly skilled trainers.


Training the trainers is a topical issue. A new report from the British Association of Construction Heads (BACH) highlighted the difficulty of recruiting more mature tutors. 

BACH says knowledge needs to be in place to up-skill the workforce, support modern methods, green skills, and off-site manufacturing. I agree. 

Meanwhile, the Department of Education’s (DfE) new campaign "Taking Teaching Further" aims to increase the number of teachers in Further Education. The DfE wants to attract industry professionals with years of great practice under their belt. 

The CITB is exploring how to use industry experience to the best effect. Our Quality and Standards team have just started work on a standard that will aim to bring consistency to the “Train the Trainer” arena.   

And we will shortly be advertising training vacancies at our National Construction College, Bircham, roles which will see teachers share the skills they learnt over the years with construction newcomers. 

Sharing skills, like this, is an important part of the training landscape. 


As I mentioned in my first blog, one of my aims as CEO is to make training (and funding) more accessible. I want businesses to get the training support they require. I also want to see more first-class training for learners and young people work-ready from day one of their careers.

For a long time, employers said that new construction starters were knowledgeable but lacked essential skills and - that word again - experience.

This is why Occupational Traineeships, which began in June last year, and our onsite hubs, which will build on the success of our Construction Skills Fund (CSF), are so important. They thrive on practical learning. The CSF saw 20,000 people become site-ready which was an excellent outcome.


Since I began my career as a gas apprentice I’ve been a Training Instructor and National Project Manager, amongst other roles. Along the way I’ve learnt a huge amount from my colleagues.

When I first became a Chief Executive, at a previous organisation, I soon became aware of my inexperience. I struggled in the job, endured imposter syndrome, my confidence plunged.

Fortunately, I had a great Chairman. He explained the approach I should take. His support was like getting a breath of oxygen while swimming in a shark-infested sea. He believed in me, shared coping strategies and improved my self-belief.

Without his experience I would have resigned. Since then, I’ve asked myself how I can empower my teams. That’s one way I share the experience I’ve gained with colleagues.

Training can be fun

It’s worth remembering that training can be a lot of fun. The contrast between fresh-faced apprentices and worldly-wise workers can create great banter and camaraderie.

And lifelong learning works both ways. Older workers, who may have become set in their ways, can benefit from the new approaches young people bring to the office and to sites.

Let’s do our best to ensure we share the learning and wisdom we’ve all gained. It will change lives and be a great boost to industry in the years ahead.

If you would like to share your views, please get in touch via ceo@citb.co.uk.