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Callum Tomlinson Skill Shortage, Skills Gap...

The UK Construction Sector Skills Shortage - What You Need To Know

Blog Post Tempate

The construction sector contributes almost £100 billion to the UK economy each year and it is predicted that this figure will continue to grow.

Despite the size and scope of the industry, research carried out by The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, suggests that the skill shortage within the sector is currently at its highest point since 2007.

Experts have been warning about the potential of a skills shortage within the UK construction sector for over a decade. It is reported that an additional 200,000 skilled workers would be required to close the gap and ensure the industry is able to keep up with the current rate of growth.

 As experts in construction, we are well-placed to provide an overview of the current challenges for the UK construction sector and offer advice on what can be done to overcome them.

Why is there a skills shortage in construction?

The construction industry has long struggled with encouraging young people to choose a career within the sector. Despite heavy investment and a broad range of opportunities available for school leavers, it remains that construction is often overlooked as a potential career path.

With over 20% of construction workers in their fifties, there is a genuine concern that demand for skilled professionals will soon outweigh supply. And as these experienced construction workers choose to retire, the skills they have developed over decades will be lost.

Brexit and the pandemic have further exacerbated the skills shortage as many migrant workers have chosen to return to their home countries in the face of growing uncertainty.

What does the skills shortage mean for the sector?

At a basic level, the skills shortage will prevent the UK construction sector from being able to deliver critical infrastructure projects and meet ambitious housing targets - ultimately resulting in the industry shrinking in size.

For employers, the lack of qualified candidates can make it increasingly difficult to find the right people to join their business. With greater competition for experienced candidates, organisations should be prepared to provide increasingly competitive packages for new employees and be prepared to negotiate.

The Construction Index reported that salaries have already started to rise. In 2019 the average salary for a construction worker in the UK rose by almost 10% despite there being fewer vacancies, suggesting that the impact of the skill shortage is already being felt.

With fewer qualified candidates, smaller employers might find it increasingly difficult to compete with larger firms for the best employees.

What do construction employers need to know?

The skills shortage is not going to be resolved overnight, in the absence of a huge influx of new professionals joining the workforce, construction employers must work closely with their staff to understand what can be done to keep older employees in the workforce for longer.

This could mean adapting working conditions and rethinking job roles to help employees stay within the business for as long as possible. For instance, could someone approaching retirement be offered a less physically demanding role or offered a more flexible working pattern?

The most important thing an employer can do is to evaluate how knowledge is passed through their organisation and think critically about whether the process could be improved. For example, experienced employees should be encouraged to partner with junior team members to help with their development.

What can we do to tackle the skills shortage?

To tackle the skills shortage, the construction industry must invest time and resources in educating young people about the wide variety of career opportunities within the sector.

For young people already working within the construction industry, employers should ensure they are getting as many opportunities to develop their skills as possible. Employers should seriously consider expanding their apprenticeship programme to build their workforce and develop talent from within.

In the short term, more needs to be done to help construction businesses navigate the new immigration system to ensure they can draw on the broadest talent pool possible and benefit from the experiences of migrant workers who might be interested in returning to the UK.