Taking on the UK Construction Skills Shortage

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construction skills shortage

Full article with thanks to: chas.co.uk/blog/tackling-construction-skills-shortage

According to the Open University Business Barometer, 2020 has seen UK organisations spend £6.6 billion to plug short-term gaps resulting from skills shortages this year. Here, we look at what is meant by a skills shortage in the UK and what can be done about the skills shortage in construction.

What Is a Skills Shortage in the UK?

A skills shortage refers to the lack of qualified people available in relation to a vacant job role. When employers or entire sectors struggle to find suitable applicants for vacancies, this can demonstrate a skills shortage in a particular area. 56% of UK organisations have experienced skills shortages this year, and despite the pool of general candidates growing significantly in 2020, employers are still struggling to find the right people.

A skills shortage is more than just a reference to the level of qualification a candidate requires. It can also constitute a difficulty in finding the right person for a job in the necessary location at the cost an employer is able to pay or on the terms of employment. In an already shrinking candidate pool like construction workers, getting certain aspects of available jobs right can make a difference in bridging the gap.

The Skills Shortage in Construction

The skills shortage in construction has been a growing concern for construction companies, and as more time goes by, the problem becomes more pressing. One of the main reasons for the UK skills shortage — specifically in the construction industry — is an aging workforce. As construction workers reach retirement age, fewer people are entering the industry to replace them.

The UK Government had pledged to build 300,000 new homes each year, but PPE specialists Vizwear suggest the workforce is not large enough to deliver such a high target. The lack of suitable, qualified candidates will directly affect the industry fulfilling projects.

The UK job board, CV-Library, saw that, in Q3 of 2020, construction vacancies increased by a huge 213.4%. Despite the massive number of job postings coming from the industry, the construction sector had a quarter-on-quarter 53.9% decline in applications per vacancy.

What Are the Effects of the Skills Shortage in the Construction Industry? 

The primary effect of the skills shortage in construction is cost. Difficulties in sourcing staff come with increased recruitment costs, as construction companies have to increase their efforts and spend to try and find workers. In turn, this can mean a rise in inflated salaries, as businesses need to overpay to secure skills that are in short supply.

Paying over the odds for staff is also an issue in temporary staffing situations. While waiting for a long-term solution, companies often have no choice but to pay a much higher rate for temporary staff as a stop-gap. Short-term gaps have cost UK organisations an additional £2.2 billion in 2020 versus 2019. There is also the associated cost of training workers hired at a lower level to bring them up to the desired level of qualification.

Turning down work has major consequences for construction companies, but accepting contracts they are then unable to fulfil has repercussions to their reputation in the industry. The skills shortage in construction can result in a project going over time and over budget, so both projects and construction companies are affected.

What Can Be Done to Tackle the Skills Shortage? 

With a growing population, the problem in the construction industry is not the number of people looking for work. The solution to the skills shortage in construction is making a career in the industry seem desirable. Tackling the UK skills shortage in construction must start with changing perceptions of the industry.

Firstly, many young people are not aware of the vast array of jobs that come under the umbrella of construction. Educating young people about the wealth of opportunities and career paths available will help incentivise them to consider a career in the industry. With careers in digital technology being an increasingly popular choice for young people, modernising construction techniques will increase the appeal for young people that are prioritising forward-thinking and longer-lasting roles when choosing a career path.

Construction also has a reputation for being an industry of middle-aged white men, and statistically, it isn’t far off. The skills shortage in construction may be, in part, down to some demographics feeling like the industry is not the place for them. Widening the talent pool for recruitment is just one of the many benefits of a diverse workplace, and diversifying the workforce will help to stop limiting the kinds of people who typically enter the industry. Pushing back against the perceived idea that construction is a “boy’s club” and challenging gender inequality in construction will make the industry more appealing to women, vastly increasing the number of people interested in a career in construction.

Reaching potential workers is a varied task. Collaboration is key in working with local communities at a grassroots level to enthuse people about careers in the sector. Education and schooling are also important to promote a career in construction to students from a young age. The Open University found that 48% of UK employers felt apprenticeships and work-based learning initiatives would be vital to closing the skills gap.

Re-education is also key here in the form of upskilling existing workers to broaden their skillsets. Investing time and resources into current staff is a huge opportunity for construction companies to make the most of the workers they already have. A new stream of workers is vital, but those already in the industry should not be overlooked. Improving the training available to existing workers, not only benefits the company but also opens up opportunities to workers previously hired at a lower level. This investment into workers is a great selling point when appealing to potential employees, as progression is important to people when considering a career path. Seeing a clear path for progression and commitment from construction companies to the advancement of staff will incentivise more people to join the sector.

Full article with thanks to: chas.co.uk/blog/tackling-construction-skills-shortage

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