Service leavers and veterans can be confident about establishing long-lasting careers in construction.

Any preconception that construction is low-skilled and low-paid is set to be dispelled, as are fears that UK construction labour demand may be short-lived. According to construction industry consultant Arcadis, workers in high demand occupations could see their wages double as the industry faces a “skills gulf”.

Arcadis research published in February 2017 (report here) showed the industry needs to recruit over 400,000 people every year between now and 2021 – equivalent to one worker every 77 seconds – to cope with predicted workloads.

Key trade needs include carpenters and joiners, plumbers, electricians and bricklayers, particularly in the labour-intensive housebuilding sector. The report also identifies a need for over 7,400 civil engineers, 7,300 quantity surveyors and 26,400 construction directors.

In the approaching UK general election, Brexit is a key issue, but these figures are independent of the impact of any eventual Brexit deal. However, a ‘hard Brexit’ could particularly exacerbate the existing labour shortage.

James Bryce, Arcadis Director of Workforce Planning, said:

“Overcoming a skills shortfall can’t be achieved through education and technology alone … we need to bring more new talent into the industry … [and] construction will also need to look at those currently working in other industries and dramatically improve its efficiency.”

Strategic need for construction skills

Certainly, the current government and industry is well aware that today’s skills shortages are a long-standing problem. The government’s green paper on industrial strategy noted:

“There have also been problems with the delivery of schemes. Projects have been delayed by years and provided at excessive cost. There has been improvement in recent years, but the local planning and consent system still remains a contributing factor in some instances. There has also been fragmentation in the construction sector and its supply chain, with businesses often unable to deliver long term investment at large scale. This is combined with … acute and urgent skills shortages in key industrial sectors including infrastructure and the nuclear industry.”

It is therefore encouraging that the draft strategy seeks to address some of these issues, and that industry is also looking to play its part (see this post on the SkillsPlanner blog). But we will have to wait until after the election to see how the next government pushes forward with this agenda.

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