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The Reality of The Construction Skills Shortage

21st October 2014

After struggling through the recession the UK construction market has been going from strength to strength over the last few months, with September showing an eight month high in construction output.

The recent growth of the industry has however sparked fears of a ‘skills shortage’ across the sector. The ongoing worry is that if the skills shortage amongst construction workers continues then it could significantly hamper the growth of the industry.

Construction Skills Shortage: The Stats

In a recent survey by CITB 4% of employers said that a shortage of labourers and skilled workers had already constrained output in the last year, this is a significant increase from the reported 1% in 2011. A further 7% of those questioned said they expected the skills shortage to become a constraint within the next 12 months, confirming fears that without action this issue may quickly escalate.

In accordance with these figures the table (figure 20, below) shows that Labourers and general operatives are the hardest vacancies to fill, followed by a selection of other skilled trades. It has been suggested in some reports that the lack of candidates available for these kinds of roles is due to the rise in young people attending university, rather than going into work or apprenticeships, in recent years.

Skills Shortage Figures

It is these skilled positions which are becoming increasingly difficult for construction companies, house builders and other organisations to fill. One in eight employers (13%) reported that they did not have enough skilled workers for part of the last year, with a further 5% of those surveyed saying they didn’t have enough skilled workers for all or most of the last 12 months. Fears are that these figures (outlined in figure 14, below) will continue to rise as companies struggle to find and retain good skilled workers, the figures have already increased 2% each on 2011.

Fig 14

Over a third (36%) of employers have confirmed that they have tried to recruit skilled staff but have experienced difficulties in filling these positions. Due to these recruitment difficulties more than half of employers (53%) have sub-contracted work in an attempt to overcome the lack of skilled workers, this figure is 67% for companies with over 100 employees.

The report also touched on other factors affecting the skills gap such as workers attitudes, experience and motivations. Due to being in such high demand skilled workers and labourers across the industry are now demanding more money than ever before, which again has a knock on effect on the construction sector as a whole. Aside from this attitudes of workers is also becoming an increasing issue with workers not willing to travel, work unsociable or long hours and do certain tasks.

Nick Grimshaw, who heads up the Residential Trades and Labour team at Bromak Recruitment said: “Finding great guys who have the right skills and are willing to work is getting increasingly difficult. We’re in a great position because of our partnership with our sister company 3B Training, meaning we are able to train some of our best candidates in new skills in order to get them more work.”

The table (figure 26, below) shows methods that companies surveyed were taking in order to overcome their recruitment difficulties. In all business sizes questioned increasing their recruitment and advertising spend and using new recruitment methods or channels had been a priority.

Fig 26

Construction Skills Shortage: The Training Need

The immediate training need, both for young people and those already in work, is growing increasingly apparent. Whether it’s retraining existing construction workers in new skills, getting more young people in to apprenticeships or generally getting more interest in working in the construction industry, the sector needs to take action now to avoid any further challenges in future.

The survey reported that 39% of employers had funded or arranged on the job training for staff in the last 12 months. Of these employers 50% provided training towards a nationally recognised qualification, which is significantly higher than the 2011 figure of 33%. Although action is clearly being taken to get more people into these roles it is a reported lack of funds (55%) and lack of staff time (45%) that are the main reasons for employers not providing further training.

The table (figure 35, below) shows the skills and knowledge that will need improving over the next 12 months according to those surveyed. Technical and trades specific skills are at the top as you would expect from the so called ‘skills shortage’, this is closely followed by health and safety and first aid.

Fig 35

Justine Brooks, Director at 3B Training Limited, said: “We deliver a whole host of training courses across the construction sector, including health and safety, asbestos and first aid. There’s been a significant increase in the number of companies needing these courses over the last six months. We’re currently running more health and safety related courses than ever before which is a sign of changes in the industry.”

If you have any recruitment or training needs please do hot hesitate to contact Bromak on 01204 532500 or email or 3B Training on 01204 554888 or email

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