Time for some joined up thinking18/05/2015
Thoughts on the growing skills gap in construction.
Once again, the news this week highlighted the skills shortage in the property market, with a survey showing one in three large construction firms in London having to turn down bidding opportunities because of a shortage of skilled workers.
This is not just a short-term problem. In ten years’ time, 60% of the current workforce will retire, further deepening the gap in the workforce. Logic suggests the result of this will either be an increase in the cost of building houses or the skills shortage being filled from outside the UK.
There are clear challenges for the industry and overcoming them will require a joined-up approach, with all parties taking responsibility for the areas they can individually effect.
At the most fundamental level, UK students are not considering home building as a credible future career. They see it as less glamorous, less well paid and less likely to impress their parents than a desk job. The reality, however, is somewhat different. This is a sector characterised by jobs that are highly technical, innovative, challenging and incredibly rewarding.
So, clearly the industry needs to address this disconnect between perception and reality. The Home Builders Federation (HBF) will soon be embarking on a campaign to raise the image and profile of the industry and celebrate the diversity of jobs on offer.
However, this will take support from the influencers, particularly careers advisors. So a core part of the HBF’s strategy for the future is to get these people on board and become ambassadors for the industry. They need to present home building as a rewarding career with genuine long-term prospects.
The house builders themselves also have a part to play. These organisations need to encourage young people into the industry through apprenticeships and work experience schemes. They also need to be willing to go into schools and share all that is great about the industry.
Finally, if any of these initiatives are to be successful, there is a crucial role for Government. Currently schools lose their Pupil Premium if students leave school at 16 rather than continuing their education. This is clearly a barrier for careers advisors in promoting apprenticeship schemes, which are a vital part of addressing the skills shortage. It is also perceived that apprenticeships do not offer recognised qualifications in line with higher education. Again, this is something that needs to be addressed.
Whilst the situation can’t be fixed overnight, we believe that if we work in partnership with schools, the Government and the house builders themselves, we can make a difference.