16th February 2015 • John Thatcher
Worryingly, the recent economic boom – which has seen "the sharpest rise in housing construction since 2003" – has caused skills shortages to move to the forefront of the agenda, posing a serious threat to ongoing growth.
During the recession, the construction industry was "hit hard by a combination of public sector spending cuts and lack of investment in the private sector" and thus programmes chiefly concerned with training prospective tradesmen and offering apprenticeships became largely defunct.
However, in reaction to the boom and the demand for 245,000 new build houses, roughly 120,000 apprenticeships are needed by 2019. It's an urgent challenge for the UK government to address, and one which will only become more pressing as time goes by and the construction industry continues to grow.
Previously we've spoken about the economic growth creating a greater need for construction jobs, and with the house building market growing at its fastest pace in almost a decade, it's a big concern that 19% of specialist firms have reported being unable to bid for work due purely to a lack of skilled staff.
Due to the expansion of the private building industry at a time when training opportunities are minimal, the construction industry is facing a very real threat in the form of skills shortages.
With 44% of construction professionals admitting that skills shortages are the biggest threat facing their business, and 47% of respondents arguing that clearer routes into the industry with formal training and qualifications are needed, it's glaringly apparent that the construction industry is set for a rough ride.
Demand for UK construction workers has rocketed over the last 12 months, and with the commencement of a variety of long term projects, the struggle for qualified candidates is causing the labour sourcing process to drag.
The construction industry currently employs 2.47 million people (across its supply chain) and contributes 8% to GDP.
This means that the UK economy as a whole will be impacted by the skill shortages. Currently, the UK is being driven by commercial and industrial growth, which is heightening the demand for skilled workers. Without these skilled workers and an immediate focus on development and fast track training, construction projects will take a long time to complete – thus impacting the entire UK economy.
With demand high and the industry struggling to supply skilled workers, wages in the construction sector have risen by 4%, with contractor pay rates soaring – some have increased by up to 50%.
Due to the concerns surrounding the skills shortage, over 24% of construction professionals believe that greater focus on hands-on training and work experience is essential.
The general consensus within construction is that more must be done to support skills development. With 32% of businesses reporting skills shortages at entry level and 72% believing that the recruitment of young people is vital to avert an industry crisis.
With the construction industry developing so rapidly, there have been calls for Business Secretary Vince Cable to hold a summit meeting in order to discuss these issues.
The demand for skilled construction workers is at an all-time high, but things are on track.
Measures are in place to develop new apprenticeship programmes and to support skills development, in order to provide high level guidance and information. New initiatives are already in place between Birmingham University and Mott MacDonald Ltd to provide skills training to students at the school of Built Environment.
Due to the high demand, we're currently experiencing a high volume of vacancies; with the positions with the most requirements including Quantity Surveying, Estimating, Site Engineering and General Foremen.
If you're interested in a construction role, why not check out our vacancies, or give us a call to chat with one of our specialist recruiters. Alternatively, you could always take a look at our job boards: Construction Jobs South West, Hinkley Construction Jobs and Town Planning Careers.