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How Can We Overcome Construction Skill Shortages?

2 min


Shortages in construction skills are becoming a growing issue within the UK housing sector. Quadrant Smart looks at this to see how companies can offer new opportunities to manage the concern.

In 2020, research by The Open University Business Barometer showed that 56% of UK organisations experienced skills shortages that year, but demand for new build homes increased.

The construction industry only took a temporary hit from the Covid-19 pandemic as many projects were able to adapt swiftly to new working procedures.

According to BuildScan’s New Build Homebuyer index, 38.7% of all new build homes are now sold or under offer – showing a 9% rise from June 2020.

Although the demand is a positive matter for construction companies, two challenges became prominent for the sector; construction skills shortages in specific trades, from electricians to HGV drivers; and supply chain disruption.

The sector has previously relied on EU workers to fulfil construction skills shortage in the UK

The Office for National Statistics states that construction employment fell from 2.3 million in 2017 to 2.1 million by the end of 2020. Showing a 4% decline in UK-born workers, and a much more significant 42% fall in EU workers.

The skills shortage in construction has been a growing concern for construction companies, and as more time goes by, the problem becomes more critical. As construction workers reach retirement age, fewer people are entering the industry to replace them.

The UK job board, CV Library, saw that construction vacancies increased by a huge 213.4% in 2020. Yet, despite the massive number of job postings coming from the industry, the construction sector had a 53.9% decline in applications per vacancy.

With a growing population, the problem in the construction industry is not the number of people looking for work, the solution comes with making a career in the industry seem desirable.

Educating young people about the numerous opportunities available will help them to consider a career in the industry

The Open University also found that 48% of UK employers felt apprenticeships and work-based learning initiatives would be vital to closing the skills gap.

With careers in digital technology being an increasingly popular choice for young people, modernising construction techniques will increase the appeal for young people that are prioritising forward-thinking and longer-lasting roles when choosing a career path.

The construction skills gap is a major challenge. However, it is not impossible to fix. With the sector generating almost £90 billion annually and set to expand significantly over the next few years to address further housing demand, addressing these issues is a make-or-break moment for both the industry and the economy as a whole.