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Construction skills shortage threatens housebuilding targets

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  • The government has announced ambitious targets for a million new homes to be built in the UK by 2020. The housebuilding industry is doing everything it can to keep up with this demand, but the shortage of skilled workers in the sector poses a real threat to meeting these targets.

    Since the recession, housebuilding has bounced back and construction is now booming across the country. Not just in the residential sector, but also huge public sector and infrastructure projects which will continue to create even more employment opportunities. It is challenging for building companies to keep up with demand and many of us are reporting difficulties in recruiting qualified candidates.

    For workers that are qualified, demand is high and pay is good, but there are simply not enough of them. There is a marked shortage of bricklayers, carpenters and site managers, while electricians and plumbers are also sought after. This situation has the potential to get even worse with 90,000 skilled workers expected to retire from their construction jobs between now and 2020, but not enough young people choosing to go into the sector to make up the shortfall.

    Meanwhile there are more young people than ever who are classified as NEET (- not in education, employment or training). Much more needs to be done to encourage these people to pursue a career in construction, primarily through offering good, funded apprenticeships. Where as a generation ago, workers who entered the trade through apprenticeships were the mainstay of the industry, nowadays barely one in ten 18-year olds chooses an apprenticeship.

    The future of our workforce is an issue looming large over the building sector and it is something we need to think hard about and act upon, so that we can deliver the new homes that the country needs.


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