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The Senior Construction Worker Talent Pool

02/05/19
Posted by: Christopher Ruddick

The construction skills shortage has been a long source of pain for the construction industry with little end in sight.

There have been numerous positive changes, including various new programmes and investment to try and tempt new blood into the industry, but the industry continues to still have an identity crisis and image that puts many off considering such a role.

In addition, to this image issue, there obviously has been the regularly mentioned “B word” and the lack of clarity and resolution in sight at the time of writing this blog. Additionally, the softening of activity in the sector.

Other questions that the industry has to answer as well is whether these programmes are adequately preparing the workers of tomorrow for future changes in the methods of construction and developments in technology which change the skillset requirements for these jobs. 

Whilst on first sight this might be a small issue this new blood will need to understand and adapt to the requirements of tomorrow and how this country delivers new homes in an efficient and effective manner. 

The beginning of 2019 and most of 2018 have already seen numerous small and much larger groups preparing factories and, in some cases, start producing and delivering modular homes from that facilities. 

Put simply these small and much larger groups are doing one thing – investing, investing in what they consider the future. 

Additionally, whilst all these programmes continue to drive new blood into the industry (or attempt to) it will take a number of years to have any real impact in the industry. Furthermore, it will be an even longer period before those new workers hopefully begin to move into more senior positions within the industry.

But what about the pressures of now?

Well we have put simply a limited amount of talent that is continually circling various senior positions within different industry players of various sizes.

These senior construction bosses are more akin to football or other high profile sport management that simply move from one role to another irrespective of their performance, because there is simply not enough talent at that level and equally because they are perceived to be the right choice with minimal risk to the industry players involved.

So where is the answer?

If the industry continues to rely on this closed pool of talent, then there is a clear need for change as the current ways are clearly not providing the right answer.

That change could be to focus on the level of performance and not simply the fact they have done it for a while and be more realistic about them being the perceived right choice, and therefore ultimately question whether they are the right people for the role.

In simple terms, ensure that these senior construction workers do not simply talk the talk, but more that they can walk the walk as well. For example, by delivering new projects and meet required performance levels and targets on an ongoing basis and ultimately reducing risk to the company.

Other Ideas – and the ones that the industry should really be moving towards

As it stands the industry is over reliant on this small section of the industry, and an alternative answer to simply relying on the same senior construction workers is for the industry to promote talent either from within or externally.

This of course introduces an element of additional risk, as they will be less experienced within those senior roles. 

However, it is clear that to continue the current trend is equally as risky to the industry. 

Furthermore, their inexperience can potentially with the right guidance be overcome as they will be looking to prove themselves within that more senior role, which is less likely for the incumbent set of senior construction staff.

Beyond just the fact those that are younger and more “hungry” to perform the employers that want to take a risk may have a further opportunity to introduce different ideas and skills that can help guide them through the challenging times of building more new homes than in a number of recent years (despite efforts to increase the number of homes built), but equally approaches and skillset which are likely to change over the coming years.

Those changing times at least now are likely to include a significant level of modern methods of construction, which does include aspects such as modular homes as this particular method of construction appears to be the “darling” of the industry to help build new homes extremely quickly and mostly offsite. 

The issue being that there is less likely to be less “traditional” housebuilding techniques bar a few areas as most of this is done offsite and equally a number of smaller and larger players are putting that significant level of investment behind modern methods of construction. 

So maybe it is time to ignore the small “band” of current senior construction employees and promote some less senior, fresh talent into more senior roles bringing with it hopefully a greater level of performance, hunger and ideas.