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UK construction associations voice concerns over skills shortages

Published by , Editor - Hydrocarbon Engineering
World Cement,

According to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), a construction skills time bomb is ticking, with skills shortages on the increase across a number of trades and professions. The FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey for 4Q14 that small construction firms are experiencing particular difficulties recruiting carpenters, joiners and bricklayers.

“As the shock waves from the latest economic downturn continue to reverberate through the construction sector, concerns over diminished workloads have been replaced by concerns over skills shortages,” said Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB. “This time last year, only 27% of firms were struggling to recruit bricklayers – that figure now stands at a sizeable 42%. For carpenters and joiners, the figure has nearly doubled with 23% of firms reporting issues in 4Q13 and 44% of firms now saying these tradespeople are hard to come by. We’re also seeing a rising and significant shortage of roofers, plasterers and site managers.

“The skills time bomb has arisen for a number of reasons. Around 400 000 construction workers left the industry since the downturn hit in 2007 and many will never return. If you combine this with an increase in workloads as the economy recovers, all the signs point to the skills shortage getting worse before it gets better.

“The FMB is working hard to help address this skills shortage but the Government must also play its part. If Ministers could do one thing to help address the problem in the medium term, it should be to review its proposed apprenticeship funding reforms, which our members tell us will prevent them from being able to train apprentices. In the midst of a skills crisis, it’s the last thing the construction industry needs,” concluded Berry.

However, despite the concerns raised by the FMB, separate research has indicated that efforts are already being made to overcome skills shortages. A new CSN report from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) revealed that between now and 2019, around 224 000 new job opportunities could be generated across the UK’s building sector.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) has also unveiled plans to nip skills shortages in the bud by attracting new recruits to the sector. The trade body has created a new website that seeks to improve young people’s knowledge of the building profession. The latest data from the HBF suggests that the recovery of the house-building industry has generated around 100 000 jobs over the last two years alone. Compared to the situation in 2012, it said last year saw work begin on 44 000 additional new homes. With further demand expected for the likes of bricklayers and engineers, the HBF believes its new website will help to raise awareness of the different career opportunities that construction firms can deliver.

Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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