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Solving the Construction Skills Shortage, Continued

29/01/18
Posted by: Christopher Ruddick

In August 2017 TDM wrote a blog post about Solving the Construction Skills Shortage (Link). Since then there has been numerous further reports and articles about the state of the skills shortage in the industry.

That blog went onto highlight a number of issues, more initially focused on the ageing workforce, many who are set to or have retired.

Further issues, articles and reports continue to come out about how Brexit will further “damage” the industry due to the levels of workers from abroad on some projects, with the highest percentage in London at approximately 50%.

However, our original blog highlighted the most critical issue, the lack of new homegrown blood entering due to perceptions about the nature of the work.  

The biggest negative as part of that issue being the “stigma” from parents that would not consider the construction sector as being “desirable” as a career path in comparison with some other “lucrative” sectors for their children.

Whilst the perception of the industry will take considerable time to change many other industries have managed to completely change and revitalise themselves in the digital age. The construction sector has a huge opportunity to improve and change these negative perceptions.

However, for those that still consider the construction industry as a “hands on and dirty job”, how else do you think the construction sector delivers smaller scale or larger developments without engineers, project managers and surveyors as opposed to the people on site?

Put simply the developments and changes would never be developed.

Furthermore, in many situations these developments can be on some of the most exciting high-end developments possible. Examples, such as Battersea Power Station and many other less well-known projects will help deliver or have delivered change.

Since our first blog on the construction shortage further information has been released that has highlighted very particular roles as the most difficult to fill:

  • Site Managers (32%)
  • Bricklayers (35%)
  • Joiners (35%)
  • Electricians (35%)
  • Quantity Surveyors (41%)
  • Plumbers (41%)
  • Project Managers (41%)

Whilst all of the above is very “negative”, it is time for some more positive news. Recent reports and articles have found some positive news, stimulation, response and investment from the industry.

The most recent report by Lloyds Bank on the Housebuilding Industry (Link) that companies are investing in more modern construction methods such as modular construction, the report finding that 68% of respondents were investing in this area. Modular construction is a method that clearly is significantly onsite, nor is it excessively dirty. For more information about Modular Construction why not read our recent blog about it? Link

In addition, the fact that the sector is beginning to tackle these shortages more directly and head on than ever before. The report found that 69% are investing in staff training and 51% are in the process of setting up new apprenticeships.

Clearly the skills shortage in the sector is not resolved. Rather like the “housing crisis” the skills shortage will not be resolved overnight.

Secondly, without a response the industry would stand no chance of getting close to 300,000 homes per year, every year (although the target in Homes England is officially “an average of 300,000 per year by the mid 2020’s, as highlighted in a previous blog - Link) . Therefore, it is good to see the industry responding to the needs and demands by bringing new blood via apprenticeships, further additional staff training and methods of construction to help.

Sadly, these problems are current and more acutely in some of the roles highlighted above. Despite the current ongoing efforts, it is going to take time for these changes to have real impact and change. Until then the skills shortage will be an ongoing issue, that Brexit will only make worse.