Government Urged to Tackle Construction Skills Shortage

Published: 15 April 2018

Last month, international engineering enterprise, Laing ORourke launched a report which challenges the government to tackle the construction skills shortage. The lack of skilled labour has been a hot topic in recent months, with a solution yet to be implemented.

A poignant recommendation from Laing O’Rourke’s report is to introduce Construction as a GCSE and A-Level subject into UK schools. For this to happen, industry and government must collaborate to tackle the issue head-first. Here we look at why this recommendation is of significance and could help future-proof the construction industry…

Skills vital to Construction Industry Performance

The supply of trained workers is vital to the delivery of major construction and infrastructure projects across the UK. The Financial Times says without a pool of skilled builders ‘big infrastructure and housebuilding projects will be at risk.’

This adds more significance in light of the recent Autumn Statement, which announced plans for substantial investment into housing, property and infrastructure. Introducing construction as a subject to UK schools is one way the government could help tackle the mismatch between the supply and demand of trained professionals.

It’s time to BREXIT-proof

Research from the Office for National Statistics has already highlighted nearly 12% of the 2.1 million construction workers come from abroad. The recent vote for Britain to leave the EU will undoubtedly deter foreign construction workers from coming to the UK, and widen the skills gap even further. With Article 50 likely to be triggered in early 2017, getting to grips with the skills shortage will be vital.

Alastair Sinclair, Business Development Manager at Xperience Dynamics, comments, “It is clear from speaking to our construction clients, there is a nervousness surrounding Brexit and the impact it will have on their workforce. This is a real concern, given the current reliance on migrant workers both at a trade and professional level. Brexit has come at a time when construction is already facing a skills shortage; I know our clients would be reassured to see more actionable outcomes from the government.”

Educate for the future

Many young people’s first experience of any formal construction education is when they enter university or higher-level education. There are few other vocations where school leavers are expected to enter a profession without previously being exposed to it. Introducing construction early on is a sure way of creating a skill pool and future proof the construction industry. 

Laing O’Rourke ‘s report also encourages the government to create and foster collaboration between industry and government. With the CITB’s latest report stating that 230,000 construction jobs are set to be created throughout the UK in the next five years, collaboration will be vital in ensuring these numbers are delivered.

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