The UK construction industry is facing a labour crisis and so it is vital for the long-term future of UK housebuilding that more young people are encouraged to choose jobs in the sector. John Elliott, Managing Director of Millwood Director Homes explains why now is a great time for those looking to get into the construction industry.
Construction is a major sector of the UK economy, generating almost £90 billion annually (6.7% of GDP) and employing over of 2.9 million people, representing about 10% of UK jobs. But there are simply not enough skilled workers to take on the available roles and help keep the country on track in its housebuilding targets. The industry needs to fill 182,000 jobs by 2018, as well as addressing the skills shortage for the long term.
The Government is committed to its targets of building a million new homes by 2020 and according to recent research from Lloyds, housebuilders at large are increasingly optimistic about levels of growth and investment, with firms increasing their five-year growth forecasts from 25% last year to 28% this year. But these targets can only be met by increasing industry capacity and that means bringing on more workers.
The construction skills shortage, which is particularly pronounced in London and the south east, has really started to bite in recent months. According to the Federation of Master Builders within the SME construction sector, nearly two-thirds of companies are struggling to hire bricklayers and 55% are having a hard time sourcing carpenters and joiners.
While the skills shortage existed long before the Brexit vote, in light of Brexit, there is all the more need to invest in the home-grown workforce of the future, rather than using overseas workers to plug the gaps. The construction workforce is also ageing, with a significant number of workers retiring or due to retire in the next ten years, meaning the focus must now shift to the younger generation.
For young people the construction industry has had something of an image problem – it is not always seen as the most attractive industry to go into and it loses out to sectors that are better paid and more stable. Many young people simply don’t know about the breadth of opportunity and types of jobs available in the sector, with misconceptions that jobs are predominantly manual, when in fact there are a wide variety of careers available. This means there are roles suitable for just about everyone, regardless of their skill set.
Much more needs to be done to change perceptions and better communicate what is great about working in the industry, as well as making more apprenticeship and training opportunities available. The Government has already invested over £1 billion into training and apprenticeship schemes, but it is now up the industry to work together to attract new talent and incentivise young people with better paid apprenticeships and a clear career path leading from that. Without investing now in the people that will be the future of the industry, we threaten the future growth of the housebuilding sector.