Tackling skills gap: encouraging new construction industry talent

  • 9 Feb 2015

The UK construction industry is facing a skills gap crisis, after the loss of thousands of skilled workers during the recession. Business is steadily returning to pre-downturn levels, however a report by the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry (LLCI) found that 20% more workers would be required to meet demands in 2014–17, and training provisions would need to double.

Only 1 in 7 businesses employed apprentices in 2014

Saint-Gobain Technical Academies helping to tackle the skills gap.

With the construction industry forecast to grow by 4.8% in 2015, it is apparent that we do not have the amount of skilled workers required to fill the current skills gap. According to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), only one in seven businesses employed an apprentice in 2014, while 83% of the UK’s existing workforce received no training last year.

Although these figures show an improvement on previous years, it is clear that there is more to be done to reinvigorate the UK’s construction workforce and its attitude towards training the next generation of industry professionals.

Next generation of workers

The industry should be doing more to engage within schools and education to attract the next generation of workers, as well as providing training to update the skills of current professionals. Confidence in the industry has dropped, but with the post-recession boost, we need to assure and encourage skilled tradespeople who left to return with a renewed enthusiasm.

Industry professionals and those hoping to join the construction workforce have a range of training options available to them, including on-the-job training, practical courses at training academies, apprenticeships and specialist up-skilling programmes leading to vocational qualifications – all of which develop the skills needed to maintain growth. We should encourage men and women of all ages to consider employment in the industry, and provide a range of training to develop the skilled UK workforce.

Apprentices stay with a company for 8+ years

Employing enthusiastic apprentices can have a positive impact in any company, as the knowledge and learning of the apprentice encourages a culture of learning within the wider workforce. Studies also show that apprentices are loyal employees, often staying with a company for eight years or more.

It is important to invest in the future of the construction industry to ensure that business in the UK remains strong.

It goes without saying that equal opportunities should be offered to both women and men. Women represent just 11% of the construction industry in the UK, with most of these jobs office based, and we should try and encourage women into the profession from an early age. The number of women in the construction industry has increased in the last decade, but many women do not realise the wide range of career opportunities available to them in the industry, including the more technical roles that are constantly evolving and innovating.  

Apprenticeships are not just for school leavers & young people

Equally, the industry should be investing in workers of all ages. A quarter of companies in the construction industry that recruited within the last year took someone on for their first job since leaving school, college or university, but it should also be remembered that apprenticeships are not just for school leavers and young people. Only 36% of employers have heard of Adult Apprenticeships, Higher Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships, often catering for the needs of mature learners. In fact, older apprentices can bring with them life experience and a perspective that is rarely found in 16-year olds. Age is unimportant when it comes to hiring an apprentice – what matters is a desire to learn and contribute to the industry.

There is strength in equality and diversity, as it brings with it a wider pool of talent to the industry, providing new ideas and innovations, contributing to improved business performance. Indeed, equipping people with the right skills and opportunities will lead to better paid jobs and career opportunities – this means better leadership and management in the future.

The economy is recovering, but the shortage of skills is a key challenge for the construction industry. In order to keep up, we should encourage as many people as possible, by raising awareness of the opportunities, to undertake training in an industry that is set to grow rapidly over the next few years, providing a wealth of exciting prospects for employees. If we invest in our workforce and close the skills gap, we can help secure the future of the construction industry. 


Feature article for Buildingtalk by Dave Hall, Manager of the Saint-Gobain Technical Academies.

Link to find out more about Saint-Gobain Technical Academies or tweet @SaintGobainUK


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