UK Construction Media

Wising up to the skills shortage

News   •   Aug 04, 2017 09:10 BST

The skills shortage in the construction sector is well documented, with research conducted by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) that suggests that access to skilled workers is spreading through building trade, from bricklayers and carpenters to other key trades.

The FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey for 2017 shows that 60% of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers; 58% are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners; and 45% are struggling to hire plumbers. And while the industry is growing, this is creating a bottleneck of jobs to workers.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “We’ve been experiencing a severe shortage of bricklayers and carpenters for quite some time – these latest statistics show that skills shortages are now seeping into other key trades such as roofers and plumbers. Indeed, of the 15 key trades and occupations we monitor, 40% show skills shortages at their highest point since we started to feel the effects of the skills crisis in 2013 when the industry bounced back post-downturn. This growing skills deficit is driving up costs for small firms and simultaneously adding to the pressure being felt by soaring material prices linked to the weaker pound.”

The Construction industry is experiencing a resurge in growth and with the Government Housing White Paper calling for a million more homes by 2020 is to be realised, it will need to ensure the construction sector has the skilled workers it needs to build these new homes.

Berry continued: “Against a background of significant political uncertainty, including Brexit and the General Election, this demonstrates a resilience in our sector that can sometimes go underappreciated. All of the key metrics of growth – workloads, enquiries, employment and expectations – were positive. However, these encouraging findings are dampened somewhat by continuing price inflation, with material and wage increases being widely reported. The remainder of the year will undoubtedly provide its challenges, but in the short term at least, builders are confident about their prospects.”

We spoke to Dave Newgass at Wise Global Training about the skills shortage and how businesses can ensure they have skilled labour available for new contracts.

“Fluctuations in the market have contributed to the construction skills shortage - obviously when the market contracts - as it did violently in 2008, the labour provided to that market also retracts, with people getting laid off, retiring, going into other sectors, etc.” says Dave.

“Then when the market rejuvenates, there is a shortage of skilled labour, or labour that isn't as experienced or as well trained as there was previously, creating a shortage in the skill set required.”

He has found that as we see resurgence in construction industry growth, as does the training industry, with companies looking to upskill their workers or individuals looking to break in to the job market.

“Clients will look to replace experienced personnel by upskilling and achieving certification on a Health & Safety course, or you have people who have realised there is a new job market open to them and they want to give construction a go. And having a H&S qualification will put them ahead of other candidates, helping them stand out in the job pool.”

We asked Dave about the apprenticeship levy and if the drive towards apprentices will help boost the market and interest more young people in the industry.

“It can only help,” he says. “Apprenticeships used to have a bad reputation, with companies basically using the apprentices for cheap labour. But I can see this changing, the work that goes in to giving apprentices skills, through on the job and study training, shouldn’t be thrown away. And more and more businesses are committing to a full training programme for apprentices.”

“Businesses seem to see that investing in training an apprentice is win-win, with a more dedicated and skilled workforce, and the apprentice is rewarded with a job after.” He explains.

“It’s more than just box ticking, it’s good business sense too.”

And here is where the apprenticeship levy should come into its own, Dave predicts, “We need to get young people interested in the sector or we will find the skills gap widens.”

“Investing in apprentices will bring skilled, home grown workers into the market.”

Government commitment to construction projects is all important to secure continuity within the industry, guaranteeing jobs after an apprenticeship programme will encourage more young people into the market, if they have a secure future.

Wise Global Training offers a full range of NEBOSH and IOSH Health & Safety Courses, from level 2 through to level 6, and it sees more companies investing in this kind of training.

“We offer quality online training, with full tutor support, and as the industry grows, we are seeing an increase in enquiries.” Dave explains.

Founded in 2010, by Dave and his father-in-law, Wise Global Training capitalises on the best of e-learning systems, providing specialised online accredited H&S training and globally recognised qualifications.

The quality of Wise Global Training’s tutors is crucial to its success, with the company boasting a 100% pass rate on its IOSH courses and above average pass rate for NEBOSH. The company boasts an ex-HSE inspector as one of its tutors, ensuring quality throughout.

A small company, it can provide a personalised service to its clients, ensuring they have the qualifications it requires.

For more information on Wise Global Training please click here.

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