Helping to plug the construction skills gap
Written by Ian Orton, director of Downing Construction
The construction sector is paving the way for the UK’s economic growth, delivering more than £110 billion to the national economy each year.
It builds the roads, airports, railways and other infrastructure that keep the UK’s economy moving forward. It shapes the communities, homes and workplaces needed for a growing population and is tasked with keeping all of these resources as productive and sustainable as possible for future generations.
About 2.9 million people are employed in the UK construction industry – that’s about 10% of the country’s workforce.
However, it’s no secret that the sector has been in the grips of a skills shortage, with the demand for skilled workers threatening to outstrip the supply.
This skills gap is hitting the construction industry hard, with a Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) report showing that the percentage of skilled workers is now at its lowest level since 2013.
Part of the challenge facing our sector is a rapidly ageing workforce. In 2011, it was estimated that one in every five UK-born construction workers were aged over 55, meaning that by 2021, those people will nearly have reached retirement age.
In order to plug this skills gap, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has said that around 230,000 new construction workers are needed by 2020 to support development and refresh an ageing workforce.
In order to attract and retain the next generation of workers who are looking to enter our industry, it’s essential that we actively promote the vast range of rewarding career paths available to new starters and school and university leavers.
Innovative use of technology has been widely embraced across the sector with technologies such as BIM, drones, scanning and robotics transforming productivity and how effectively we can work.
We also know that off-site construction methods now mean that young people will have a chance to learn their skills and apply themselves in a much more modern, high-tech environment.
It is exciting advances such as this which gives hope in the face of the looming skills gap the industry is facing.
Other advances, such as flexible working are also helping to make the industry more attractive and although flexible working has not been traditionally associated with our sector, we’re now seeing more and more companies place a greater emphasis on elements like this which enhance and promote employee wellbeing.
Striking a better work-life balance is undoubtedly beneficial for employees, particularly if our sector is to succeed at attracting more women into construction. By offering flexible working packages, we can allow more working mums to balance the demands of raising a family and working on site.
We’re also noticing training schemes such as returnships become increasingly popular across the industry. People who’ve taken a break from work may previously have struggled to re-enter the workplace, but Returner programmes can reach experienced, high-calibre candidates with a high level of commitment and valuable transferable skills.
Across the board, the industry is now starting to recognise the changes that must be made in order to address the skills gap. If we’re to succeed in tackling these challenges head-on, it’s crucial that the industry works together to provide greater opportunities to train and upskill the next generation of workers, developing a diverse and vibrant workforce that will benefit our industry as a whole.
For more information about Downing and our careers visit: https://www.downing.com/construction/work-for-us/vacancies/Back to News