Education projects

Read about the various education development and teaching projects Dr Robert Illes is, and has been involved in over the years, by clicking on the images below.


Dr Robert Illes has spent a major part of his career in education. From a first class degree in physics to experience as a physics teacher, lecturer at Oxford Brookes and a PhD in physics education, Robert continues to be involved in educative authoring, strategy development and teaching projects.

A long tenure on the Construction Innovation Hub as lead researcher for skills and training gave Robert the opportunity to engage at ministerial level. He continues to contribute to the work of the Construction Leadership Council Skills for a Modernised industry sub-group, providing strategic advisory on matters relating to construction industry skills, modern methods and policy.

Construction Innovation Hub logo

Construction Innovation Hub

Led the skills development on this major Innovate UK funded construction industry R&D programme. Developed training for the Value Toolkit. Read more...

Construction Leadership Council logo

Construction Leadership Council

Continuing volunteer member of the CLC People and Skills Network, and Skills for a Modernised Industry sub-group. Read more...

Future skills requirements gathering workshop, London

Future skills requirements

Requirements gathering workshops for future skills for building performance and assurance for the construction industry. Read more...

MMC definition framework

Industry lecturing

Taught modern methods of construction and value-based decision making to students at the University of Hertfordshire. Read more...

CAT logo

Guest lecturing

Taught about innovation and value-based decision making to masters students at the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth. Read more...

Essentie logo

Niche projects

Some work undertaken to relate and communicate scientific concepts to unique target audiences. Read more...


Construction Innovation Hub and Value Toolkit

Clients: UK Research and Innovation, Innovate UK

Consultants: BRE, MTC, CDBB

Successfully delivered: range of projects on future skills, training regime for the 'Value Toolkit'

Dr Robert Illes was lead researcher for skills and training on this major £72m R&D programme, set by the Construction Sector Deal and sponsored by UKRI. The Hub set out to transform the construction industry and was delivered by a consortium comprising the Building Research Establishment (BRE), Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), and Cambridge Centre for Digital Built Britain (CDBB).

Robert led a small team, designed and ran a number of projects, starting with an in-depth analysis of the construction industry skills landscape, collation of industry case studies with Constructing Excellence, a deep dive into what 'competence' means and the whole building safety scene, culminating with working on the Value Toolkit.

Robert got the chance to dig deeply into construction industry skills and workforce issues, pertaining to the future industry. He also got the chance to engage at a high level. Of note, he:

  • became a member of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) skills for a modernised industry sub-group
  • delivered a series of UK-wide workshops through the Constructing Excellence network to elicit future skills needs for 'asset and project performance'
  • led the development of an entire training regime for the Hub's 'Value Toolkit'
  • took ownership of the development of the Value Toolkit facilitator's manual
  • built excellent relationships with external stakeholders such as the CITB, CLC, CSIC, CWIC, BuildOffsite, ECITB, academia and public sector to include government departments
Value Toolkit training regime conceptualisation

Value Toolkit training regime conceptualisation.

Dr Robert Illes developed the training regime for the Value Toolkit. A combination of in-house and subcontract work achieved the following:

  • suite of training standards targeting many different professional audiences
  • competency profiles for all the major actors/personas (an approach as yet relatively unknown in construction)
  • Harvard Teaching Case targeted at senior leadership
  • e-learning and classroom module for the supply chain
  • e-learning and classroom module for commercial professionals
  • full two-day classroom course for facilitators - people who will undertake the Toolkit on live projects or programmes
  • specifications to allow the building of future certification schemes
  • piloting of all the training


Construction Leadership Council

Client: Construction Leadership Council

Consultant: Opal Flame

Successfully delivered: ongoing support, time and counsel on future skills for the construction industry

Dr Robert Illes participates as a volunteer member of the CLC People and Skills Network, and Skills for a Modernised Industry sub-group. Through networks created at the Construction Innovation Hub, Robert contributed to the review of the 2019 'Future Skills Report' and development of the ongoing 'Skills Plans'.

Ongoing work involves supporting the delivery of the Skills Plan objectives and impacts, through joining dots, providing insights and assisting with research. The current focus is collating the state-of-the-art in research for future skills, and delivering skills route maps for:

  • Net Zero
  • Smart Construction
  • Digital, and
  • Repair, Maintenance and Installation (RMI)

Robert maintains passionately that it is always about more than skills. It is about nurturing a wider concept of competence to include many other attributes such as knowledge, experience, behaviours, attitudes and duties. Also that in the case of Net Zero, for example, it is unwise to try and measure success by one or two performance indicators. Yes, we need to simplify the comms, but must not simplify the challenge.


Future skills requirements gathering

Client: Construction Innovation Hub

Consultants: Opal Flame, CITB, Constructing Excellence, CHY

Successfully delivered: a series of workshops engaging widely, set of requirements for future industry skills needs

An early part of the work on the Construction Innovation Hub involved Dr Robert Illes going out and finding out what industry requires in terms of future skills needs. In collaboration with Constructing Excellence, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), and CHY Consultancy, Robert designed and delivered a series of foresighting workshops to ask of industry the question:

What are your future skills needs for project and asset performance?

A diverse range of industry, academic and public sector professionals attended the workshops. The findings were grouped into several themes. They were far-reaching and will probably take some years to be realised (and recognised). They did nevertheless underpin some of Robert's later work with the Value Toolkit.

Future skills workshop

Dr Robert Illes - Opal Flame, Alison Nicholl - Head of Constructing Excellence
London future skills event.

Future skills workshop

Andreea Vihristencu - Senior Consultant Asite, Marcus Bennett - Head of Research CITB
Bristol future skills event.


Industry lecturing

Client: Oaklands College, University of Hertfordshire

Consultants: BRE Academy

Successfully delivered: teaching MMC to degree-apprenticeship students, teaching ad-hoc MMC, policy, value-based decision making to masters students

Dr Robert Illes assumed the role of 'industry lecturer' and delivered the following, in conjunction with the BRE Academy:

  • Module on 'modern methods of construction' to degree-apprenticship students - this included generation of all content, mixed pedagogy included lecturing, analytic discussions, presentations and a mini-teaching case, assessment of assignments and a day trip to a live site
  • Ad hoc lectures on construction industry innovation, policy and value-based decision making to civil engineering masters students - this included demonstration of the Value Toolkit

CCOS site in St Albans

Social media conversation

Teaching on a degree-apprenticeship programme was particularly fulfilling. The level of challenge and discussion from the students was refreshing and kept us on our toes, as teachers.

This is a relatively new education route that allows working people to continue their education to a high level (and be sponsored at the same time). We applaud it.


Guest lecturing

Client: Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)

Consultants: Opal Flame

Successfully delivered: teaching guest lectures every year on innovation, policy and value-based decision making to masters students

Having had an interest in alternative technologies from an early age (off-grid, renewables, sustainable building), Robert has been pleased to deliver occasional guest lectures to masters students at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth, Wales.

A typical lecture would cover the following:

  • current (and moving) government policy on construction industry innovation
  • value-based decision making - what do we value and how can we build this into our projects
  • a demonstration of the Value Toolkit
CAT logo

It is interesting to reflect that so-called alternative technologies like solar PV have become mainstream, and there was never a Part L in the building regulations previously. The CAT celebrated its 50-year anniversary in 2023. So in one respect, it's job done, but the journey towards Net Zero and sustainability in the built environment is still a long one.


Niche projects

Clients: Essentie, The Living Rainforest, STEM Ambassadors

Consultants: Opal Flame

Successfully delivered: a translation of scientific concepts into forms appropriate for different target audiences, promotion of the construction industry

Opal Flame Consultancy will undertake niche projects, especially where there is a particular challenge involving education, communication or consideration of a particular target audience. When it comes to technical communication, one size NEVER fits all. In 1968, the sleeve of the seminal book 'Educational Psychology' by D Ausubel, J Novak and H Hanesian proclaimed:

"If we could reduce all of educational psychology to just a single principle, it is: find out what the learner already knows and teach him or her accordingly."

This became the battle slogan for the constructivist movement, which actually contains quite a lot of sense. For technical communication and education, it means people are and always are the primary focus. One would do well to put oneself frequently in the place of the learner and consider how they are seeing your intervention, report, lecture or activity. His Holiness The Dalai Lama would probably agree...

Essentie logo

Work for Essentie involved researching and authoring reports and conducting one-to-one consultation on the best way to present some high level physics concepts (such as fields and the essential elements of the quantum world) to non-physics academics in the context of a course promoting the benefits of meditational techniques.

This was a great opportunity to work with the inspirational Mimi Van Mileghem, a highly experienced professional and coach working to uplit the world through her programmes on transformational leadership and more.

Living Rainforest logo

The Living Rainforest is an organisation just north of Newbury, Berkshire, UK, which contains an immersive experience into tropical rainforests. They boast over 850 species of plants and animals that you can see, close up. School programmes are an integral part of their operation.

Opal Flame Consultancy undertook a short research and consultancy project to relate and align scientic concepts and the National Curriculum into their sustainable tour programme.

Dr Robert Illes is proud to be a STEM Ambassador, working through the construction industry GoConstruct STEM Ambassador scheme, helping to inspire and excite, usually with a little bit of fun thrown in.

He will most likely be seen working behind the scenes with teachers and other education professionals on strategic matters, although will sometimes come up above the paraphet to entertain...

GoConstruct STEM Ambassador logo