Tuesday, 12 April 2016

How to address the Construction Sector Skills Crisis

Over the past few years, a surge in housebuilding in the UK has dramatically increased demand for skilled tradespeople within the construction sector which has helped to boost job creation. 

But with the Government promising a £1.2 billion investment to build 200,000 new homes over the next few years, the question now remains: how can the construction sector find enough talent to fill these new roles? With this in mind, Wayne Lysaght-Mason, managing director at IronmongeryDirect, discusses the skills shortage in the sector, and what steps can be made to overcome it.

In the midst of the recession, with work slowing and purses tightening across the country, the construction sector was forced to make hundreds of workers redundant. To keep out of the red, the sector did what it could to survive – but at the cost of around 300,000 skilled tradespeople losing their jobs and livelihoods.

With the recession behind us, the construction industry is witnessing a period of significant market growth, and in most respects is looking healthy. Results obtained from IronmongeryDirect’s Annual Industry Review, a survey into tradespeople’s opinions regarding the state of the sector, support this optimistic outlook with workloads and revenues reportedly on the up. The research findings also suggest that in 2015 the construction industry was in a fit state and occupying a very positive position; with 45 per cent of those surveyed claiming they actually had to turn work away.

But with the Government’s new-build plans gaining momentum and work coming in fast, the industry is feeling the strain and is in desperate need of skilled workers to restore the sector to its former size before the recession took hold. There is a huge amount of pressure to meet this increasing demand; as failure to recruit will have a detrimental effect on the whole sector and is likely to signal substantial delays in addressing the nationwide housing-crisis.

So what can be done to remedy the problem? To plug the significant skills gap, there are a number of steps that can be taken to attract and retain staff in the sector.

Attract young people into careers in the sector

With over 662,000 16-24 year olds currently looking for work, the construction sector needs to do all it can to tap into this talent pool and effectively communicate why they should pursue a career in construction. One way to do this is to engage and inform young people by inviting firms into educational institutions to talk about the benefits of pursuing a vocational career within a sector like construction and the valuable practical skills that can be gained in doing so. More can also be done to give young people the opportunity to gain hands-on, work-based experience in the field by creating more apprenticeship programmes.

Take steps to ensure a content workforce

For any business, the most valuable asset is its workforce. With this in mind, it is vital that in addition to recruiting new professionals, everything must be done to ensure that the current workforce is happy and content – this can help construction firms to retain staff and will help build team morale. Each team member needs to feel valued in their role, and so to help promote a content workplace emphasis must be placed on career development and progression – this highlights to employees that the firm sees potential in them and wants to invest in them further. Offering staff benefits, for example regular training and rewards for outstanding work, will also help employees to feel engaged.

In order to meet growing demands, it is critical that the construction industry works to address its significant skills shortage by engaging with its current workforce and attracting a new generation of workers. Failure to plug this skills gap will have a negative knock on effect across the entire country, as without the necessary man-power vital housing projects could run the risk of grinding to a halt and this could cause potential reputational damage. With 224,000 jobs needing to be filled in the sector by 2020, the time to act is now.

For more information, please visit www.IronmongeryDirect.co.uk

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