Less and less people are undertaking careers within the construction industry and the problem has now gotten so bad that the skills shortage has been described to be at ‘breaking point’. The main problem lies in the East Midlands where a report released by Scape Group, an environmentalist specialist, has shown that construction output has decreased by 6.4 % quarterly and there are simply not enough skilled workman to undertake important construction jobs. The skill shortage situation has even been described as severe by many SME’s. After the Construction Industry Scheme was released in 1999 for contractors and subcontractors alike it has been the responsibility of construction workers to pay a percentage of their pay to HM Revenue and Customs in the form of tax. Could this be what is contributing to the lack of drive to work within the construction industry today?
As with many industries, there is a constant high demand for construction and the effects of not having the workers with the right skills for the job can be somewhat disastrous for business. It has been highlighted that many small businesses have regretted not investing in training for new construction workers during the recession are now faced with a huge rise in workload, and no-one skilled enough for the job. The vote for a Brexit has also left some builders sceptical about the construction industry’s future as many of their skilled workers have come from outside the EU. They have warned that if they are not allowed to remain in the EU they will be losing a lot of skilled workers, leading to a further skills shortage. Amanda Clack, the president of the Roal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has said that they are facing the biggest construction skills shortage in twenty years and with a Brexit potentially restricting access to a skilled workforce within the construction industry, it could be that Britain is forced to stop building altogether. A study concluded in 2014 that over 100, 000 of Britain’s construction workers were from outside the EU and so when looked at in this way, it is a huge amount of workers to lose from an already rather desperate situation. Although the Government have not yet said what their exact policy on immigration is to be, Clack is urging them to consider these issues when the talks do come about.
The majority of the shortage is thought to lie in the areas of skilled plasterers and bricklayers which unfortunately is where the majority of the work is. The business development director from Robert Woodhead construction has said that the best thing that can now be done is to focus on training young people with the skills needed to work in construction as this is going to be the most beneficial investment in the long run. Taking on apprentices will ensure that young people are being brought into the industry. Educating young people about the construction industry is the best way in encouraging them to continue on that career path and so stimulating activities such as hands-on work experience are being carried out. The biggest project at the moment is the £30m Biocity Extension which is being constructed through major firm Willmott Dixon. It is giving young people the opportunity to visit sites as well as engaging directly with schools and colleges in an attempt to recruit some new young workers. With constructions firms having huge clients such as universities and shopping centres it is important that the workers are skilled in these areas.
So why is it that a skills shortage has occurred? And not just any skills shortage, but a shortage so huge that it is delaying the building of vital infrastructure within the UK? Whilst the question to this may be a difficult one to answer, there is definitely an urgency surrounding the industry to put an end to the shortage, with the Construction Industry Training Board forecasting that in order to get back on track, they will have to take on 224, 000 new skilled workers by the year 2019. Much to the economy’s despair, because construction industry workers are in such high demand, their wages and the cost of their work has risen significantly (by 6% in the past year to be precise). As much as his may be seen as a bad thing by some, construction managers are hoping that the wage increase will encourage more and more people to want to work within the industry even if it had before seemed an unattractive career choice. In college today, there are many construction apprenticeships and courses that young people can undertake and many of them are even paid whilst they train. However, unfortunately, the effects of the shortage are already being seen in homes across the UK, with the number of buildings with unimplemented planning permission rising from 381, 000 in 2012 -13 to 443, 000 in 2013-14, because, after all, it takes construction skills to build, not to plan.