Our director and head of our construction division, Ally Robin, talks about how we can overcome the skills shortage facing the UK construction industry in our latest blog….
We know the UK construction industry is flourishing – in fact, it contributes a whopping £110 billion each year to the economy (7% of GDP) and accounts for approximately 3 million jobs.
Despite this continued growth, however, the industry is facing a number of significant challenges – none more so than the ever-widening skills gap which, if not addressed, only stands to hinder this impressive growth.
So, what exactly has caused this skills shortage? Well, historically, construction companies relied on attracting experienced staff who were willing to move companies. This proved successful in the short term, but in the long term it meant companies weren’t focused on nurturing new talent with the necessary skills to replace those who are now nearing retirement.
On top of this, there is also a significant gender imbalance in the industry – women make up only 11 percent of the total workforce and just 2 percent of tradespeople. This has to change!
As a team of construction recruitment experts, we know that while the skills gap is a significant challenge for the industry, it is not an insurmountable one. Here are some of the ways it can be addressed:
Homebuilders and major construction players are certainly leading the way when it comes to investing in apprenticeship schemes and introducing community engagement initiatives to better promote careers in construction. More companies across the industry should be encouraged to follow suit.
Technology is disrupting just about every industry and construction is no different. If the industry is able to adapt to and embrace advances in automation, it will help companies meet the increased demand for new skills.
In addition, by improving company culture to be more inclusive and accepting of both men and women, as well as adopting flexible working programmes to accommodate a range of working practices, companies can also do more to level the playing field and encourage more women into the industry.
In the past, apprenticeship schemes have, at times, been poorly run, meaning those entering trade and labour roles were sometimes not fully trained and instead used as a means of cheap labour. While this is changing with time, a wider selection of vocational courses, as well as shorter courses to fast-track people into practical work, would help create a pool of skilled workers ready to enter the industry.
The deep-rooted societal view on what a career in construction really involves also needs to be tackled. To encourage more women into the industry, there has to be a change at a grass roots level to position construction as a rewarding career choice. Therefore, schools must be better equipped and better informed in order to teach, inspire and encourage the next generation of talent with a focus on the type of skills and attitudes that best suit a career in construction.
It’s hard to discuss the skills gap without mentioning Brexit. As is the case across many industries at the moment, construction will struggle to sustain its recent level of growth without the support of workers from the EU in the short term – the demand for skills is simply so much higher than the supply.
It is important therefore for both the industry and the economy as a whole that the Government is able to either negotiate a deal that does not threaten this supply of workers or ensures there are no immediate negative effects on employment in the case of no deal.
The skills gap is a challenge yes, but it’s not yet a crisis. By taking advantage of technological advancements, working to overcome the gender imbalance and inspiring more interest in a career in construction from a young age, we can ensure a steady flow of talent into the industry for many years to come, regardless of the political and economic climate.
Construction recruitment is what we do best, so if you are you struggling to recruit the right team for your construction project or business or if you are looking for your next role, get in touch. We’d love to help.