The UK is facing a construction skills shortage caused by an ageing workforce and the return to economic growth. Commentators have consistently called for the industry to plan for the future and secure the talent and skills needed for the workforce of tomorrow.
At the heart of the problem is the lack of young people coming into the industry - only about 10% of those working in the construction are aged between 19 and 24, with just 1-2% aged between 16 and 18. But as the current workforce ages and retires, the sustainability of the industry lies with these young people, and the industry needs to do more to nurture new talent and recruit the large numbers of young employees needed.
According to CITB, more than 182,000 construction jobs will be created in the next few years. This is a lot of people to recruit and train, especially at a time when, according to a report by Direct Line for Business , the gap between available apprenticeships in construction and those starting and completing apprenticeships has fallen.
Apprenticeships are an excellent way of introducing young talent to the sector and higher level apprenticeships can attract bright school leavers who would rather learn on the job than run up large university debts. However, how many young people consider construction as a career? Are they aware of the range of roles available and the opportunities they can bring?
Construction Youth Trust (CYT) is working to raise awareness of the range of construction careers available to young people. Currently, more than a million young people within the 16-24 year age range are not in employment, education or training (NEET). Through the provision of courses aimed at both the trades and professions, CYT enables them to discover the vast array of careers construction can offer.
CYT believe that by giving young people the chance to experience construction first hand through their courses and work experience placements, the future talent of the industry can be exposed to the huge array of careers open to them. However, there is a need to work with the industry to raise awareness, not only amongst young people themselves, but their parents, teachers and other stakeholders about the roles available and the progression options they offer. It is often teacher and parental influence that helps form a child’s career choice. Those influencers need to be educated about the built environment and why it is a great place to work.
It is vital to ensure the construction industry continues to challenge negative perceptions and celebrate diversity, specifically around encouraging more young women and those from the LGBT community. The diversity of the construction workforce is still poor. Only 11% are women and the number of women working in the trades is jsut 1-2%. CYT promote campaigns such as #notjustforboys as a way to help raise awareness, but they believe that the industry itself needs to show off why it’s a great place to work for both genders.
In September 2016, CYT launched a new campaign #ExperienceConstruction which gives companies the chance and support they need to ‘pledge a placement’, matching opportunities with schools and young people so that more get a chance to experience construction through a work experience placement.
Analysis of the data shows that the proportion of civils companies struggling to recruit skilled workers is at its highest level since 2014. Asked about their biggest concerns, the future supply of skilled operatives ranked the highest among most firms in all regions of the UK.
CECA Director of External Affairs, Marie-Claude Hemming said: “There are now serious concerns as to the ability to attract skilled staff to cope with a growing market. There is a substantial pipeline of work to be delivered in the coming years. Industry and government need to work together through the Construction Sector Deal to respond to these challenges.”
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