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Construction Skills Shortage Worsens As Demand For Workers Increases

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 17th February 2015

skills under a magnifier glass


At the start of 2015 there have been numerous reports that UK construction sector growth is now being hampered by a shortage of skilled labour. Many companies are unable to tender for new projects simply because they do not have the capacity to fulfil the projects should they win.

So Why Is This Happening?

The recession has had a major impact on the construction industry. When the recession hit in 2008 many tradesmen were laid off by house builders. Many of those took early retirement, have simply left the country for pastures new or found a new profession.  In 2007 only 35,000 tradesmen were claiming benefits, this figure rose to over 100,000 at the height of the recession but in December 2015 this figure has fallen to an all time low of just 17,000.

However the economic recovery has seen demand rise steeply whilst the number of workers completing trade related apprenticeships remains inadequately low. Part of the problem is that most young people are not attracted to working in a trade such as electrics or bricklaying. They deem the trades to be hard work, low paid and simply not very glamorous.

“There is no question that we are facing a skills shortage in the sector,” said John Tutte, chief executive of housebuilder Redrow.

“We can’t get away from the fact we have an ageing workforce, lack of broad investment in education and vocational training, as well as a cultural hangover.”

Recent reports in the media are suggesting that even brickies can earn £1000 a week in London as there is such a demand, which is great for tradesmen but not so great for those trying to build affordable housing across the UK. If the cost of labour increases too far we could find many projects simply shelved leading to even more of a shortage in housing.

“We are certainly seeing double-digit percentage wage inflation” for certain trades such as bricklayers and electricians" said Duncan Bullimore, a director at Hays Construction, a recruitment agency.

Only 2 weeks ago we published our trades salary survey which confirmed this data with Brickies, Carpenters and Electricians amongst those seeing the biggest increase in wages.

Part of the problem is simply a lack of apprenticeships and whilst these remain an ideal way to learn a trade for many young people they can actually serve as a barrier to entry especially for many older students who may be changing careers. Part of the problem is a lack of funding for mature students plus the old chicken and egg scenario of actually needing an apprenticeship place to start and complete your training. They can be like gold dust to find and as such this severely limits how many people can enter the industry.

How Can We Help?

Fortunately there are other ways to enter the industry. Here at Trade Skills 4U we are specialist in adult training. We know that the majority of our students would prefer to front load their training. This gives them the skills, confidence and something to put on their CV that can help them get their foot in the door. They still complete the on site assessments but do so once they have a job paying a living wage. We feel that this method of training offers many benefits for both employers and candidates alike including but not limited to;

Breaking the chicken and egg scenario of needing a job placement  to start training in the first place

Delivering students who are far more capable in a few months and can hit the ground running to a certain extent once they join a company

Giving students something solid they can put on their CV that will get them noticed by prospective employers

There is no doubt that the way to success in any industry is a combination of skills and experience, however the reality of apprenticeships is that for many they can actually restrict entry into industry.

The skills shortage seems to be becoming more and more of an issue. There were numerous reports in 2014 and now these seem to be more and more regular at the start of 2015.


The House Builders Federation have recognised that this is going to be an issue and as such have launched a fantastic new website aimed to raising awareness of the job opportunities in house building across the UK including apprenticeships and jobs of all kinds. Check it out at: http://housebuildingcareers.org.uk/

We will be doing our bit to help train the nation however more needs to be done to create work experience and apprenticeship spaces.


Categories: skills shortage