Bridging the Skills Gap
“According to recent reports, the UK construction industry will need to create around 150, 000 new jobs in the coming years to meet demands for new homes, public buildings and infrastructure.
At the same time half a million construction workers are expected to retire over the next ten years. Meanwhile, the number of younger entrants to the sector is far too low to meet projected demand.
And there is Brexit. According to a survey by the Home Builders Federation one in five construction workers currently building new homes is foreign-born, predominantly from the EU.
None of this should surprise anyone in the industry. The question is what are we doing about it now to help bridge this skills gap?
In many ways the scale of the problem reflects the scale of the opportunity. We need new workers because the industry is thriving. This brings opportunities for work and career development, and an added impetus for the industry to reform to become more productive and competitive.
But many people I have spoken to – particularly the younger people – still fear the uncertainty that Brexit may bring for the industry’s workforce. A perfect storm could be brewing.
We Know What’s Coming
The point is that we know what’s coming. We are not about to be overwhelmed by unexpected events. So we can plan and we can start taking action right now.
For existing skill sets, increasing efforts are being made to encourage people to return to the industry.
Apprenticeship places and skills academies are growing (though not fast enough). And innovative programmes to welcome and embrace and more diverse workforce into the industry are being developed.
However, all of these efforts need to be accelerated! We must continue to showcase the industry and attract people to it.
Recent reports show that the UK government has introduced a drive to help develop skills within our industry and will invest over £ 20million. I guess the question is – is this enough? To put it into perspective the total Further Education spend in the UK is £10.4bn, according to the Association of Colleges. The funding is the equivalent of around 6500 general FE students.
We must continue to be open minded. A blend of skills is important but we also need to help make the image of our industry more appealing to attract and retain people.
Look past the doom and gloom and this is an exciting industry. There are exciting projects and plenty of scope for people to develop and flourish. But if we don’t address the skills shortage together (and urgently), there is a fear that the vision for our industry could be hazy.”
Mike Todd is the Lead Business Development Manager for Infrastructure at Osborne.