Project1_Layout 1 07/05/2013 TRAINING & SKILLS
Reasons and solutions for the skills gap
Philip Fergusson, managing director of the National Construction Training Service, considers the factors which have contributed to the UK’s
construction skills shortage and why the need to address them is greater than ever
Earlier this year, research carried out by
the Federation of Master Builders (FMB)
showed the shortage of construction
workers at SME businesses in the UK
was at its worst level on record. The
report found companies were struggling to
recruit workers across all sectors of the industry,
particularly bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers.
The lack of skilled tradespeople has led to
large wage increases for those with the requisite
knowledge and experience, resulting in costlier
building projects at a time when the UK is crying
out for new housing.
The government has set an ambitious target
to build 300,000 homes per year in England to
address the current property shortage, but they
have more chance of building castles in the air if
the appropriately-skilled tradesmen and women
are not found.
Reasons to be fearful
A trade survey carried out by the FMB revealed
68% of respondents were struggling to employ
skilled workers, but what are the reasons for this
paucity of construction talent? A major factor
would appear to be the number of people leaving
or retiring from the industry is outstripping
the number of new recruits. This could be
attributed in part to a 2016 survey by the NHBC
Foundation, which found that four in 10 parents
would not encourage youngsters to consider
careers in the housebuilding trade due to them
having different aspirations for their children
and being ill-informed on the range of roles that
construction can offer.
There is a perception that the construction
industry is found wanting in terms of potential
income for its members, a view that is worth
revising in light of a Recruitment & Employment
Confederation (REC) report, which showed
bricklayers can command £1,000 per week, such
is the demand for their services and the lack of
Statistics such as this could make a career in
construction an attractive proposition for a school
or college leaver, thus highlighting another reason
for the sector’s dwindling workforce: education.
In my opinion, unless schools and learning
establishments promote construction as a
bonafide profession with excellent prospects and
high rewards, students will continue to pursue
other employment options.
Fears of a post-Brexit exodus of skilled EU
workers from the UK has also caused a ripple of
concern throughout the construction industry.
There are nearly 180,000 EU nationals employed
in the building sector, with more than 50% of
Britain’s construction firms reportedly concerned
this number will severely diminish once the UK’s
‘divorce’ from Europe is finalised.
Perhaps the most valid argument for the
reduction in the number of skilled workers
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currently plying their trade in the UK is put
forward by the Union of Construction, Allied
Trades and Technicians, which blames a ‘30-
year failure to train apprentices’ for the sector’s
shortfall. Education and training has to be a
major factor for the current workforce crisis.
It’s an issue that companies such as NCTS is
working hard to address.
NCTS is seeking to work with the CITB, trade
federations and manufacturers to encourage more
young people to take up apprenticeships. We are
also looking at ways of attracting more funding to
allow this to happen at a national level.
It’s estimated the UK needs to recruit 400,000
construction workers every year until 2021 to
match the demand for new building products. To
achieve such a figure will require a concerted
effort from the government and building industry
to inform the future workforce that the education
and support is in place to help them construct a
career that is as fulfilling and well-remunerated
as any other on offer.
And, of course, they could talk to NCTS, as
we offer the quality training and assessments
– which could lead to a Level 2 NVQ
qualification – to ensure they have all the skills
they need to succeed in a range of roofing
disciplines. The need for a fully-stocked,
fully-skilled construction workforce cannot
be overstated, and time is ticking.
“The need for a fully-stocked,
workforce cannot be overstated,
and time is ticking”