White collar skills gap holding back construction companies
This week Construction Enquirer reported that with a deepening white collar skills shortage in UK construction offices, a quarter of companies are being put off bidding for new projects.
The latest State of Trade survey carried out by Build UK found that 25% of contractors have been prevented from bidding for jobs because of labour shortages, compared to 16% in the previous quarter.
The survey found the most difficult roles for construction contractors to fill are professional and technical staff and supervisors, bricklayers and carpenters. The main reasons for this were cited as being a lack of required skills (47%), a low number of applicants with the required experience (44%) and a lack of qualifications (27%).
These findings are indicative of a wider skills crisis facing the UK construction industry.
According to a report from the Construction Skills Network, 230,000 construction jobs are to be created in the UK by 2020, driven in part by the industry’s target to build a million new homes by the end of the decade.
This equates to 44,000 jobs opening up every year for the next 5 years, with 9,400 being white collar positions, including non-construction professionals, technical, IT and office-based staff.
Such increased demand, compounded by an aging workforce, has also been a factor in driving up wages, which has had an impact on vital infrastructure projects as well as home building.
Joe Taffurelli, Operations Manager at Liquid Friday, said: “Whilst on the face of it increased wages is of great benefit to our contractors, in the long term this may cause a further slowdown and delay on larger projects resulting in far fewer opportunities for everyone. Investing in a skilled flexible workforce is critical to the success of the post Brexit UK economy and I hope that the government look at the effectiveness and relevance of the current CITB levy as this appears to be having little to no impact”.
Bridging the skills gap
The widely held conviction is that education is the answer, with calls for the industry to make a commitment to apprentices and highlight career progression opportunities, the variety of construction roles and earning potential. Indeed the government has invested £1 billion into training and apprenticeship schemes in order to address the skills shortfall in the years to come.