Mind the Construction Skills gap

The British economy has been making a strong recovery since the great recession, growing faster than any other G7 nation in 2013 and 2014. However, a skills gap could be a “dangerous brake on this recovery” and has left Britain lagging behind its competitors in terms of productivity. Martin Milburn chief executive of the Princes trust said: “ It is deeply concerning that employers are struggling to fill vacancies when we have hundreds of thousands of unemployed young people desperate for work.”


A report by the Princes trust and hsbc in 2014 showed that two thirds of business leaders believe that faster growth in their organisation will lead to shortage of necessary skills. While 75% of employers believe that skills shortages will lead to a significant skills crisis across the UK in the next three years.


One sector which is suffering greatly from this skills shortage is the construction sector. According to the construction skills network report 44,690 workers will need to be recruited into the industry every year between 2015 and 2019. In 2014 only 8,030 were recruited- this just shows how large a problem the construction industry faces when it comes to plugging the skills gap.


Training is clearly a huge issue and it seems that with many older workers retiring there are few left to train up the new blood. Age discrimination in the workplace is common to most industries but a recent report by the Chartered institute of builders has lamented this tendency to dispose of older workers. With 19% of the construction workforce set to retire in the next five to ten years it is of parmount importance that employers “overcome stereotypes and repurpose, where necessary, job descriptions to attract and, most importantly, retain older workers.”


Using older workers to train up younger recruits should be seen as one solution to the problem not a quick and economic fix. What must be a priority for all companies is to invest in training as this will lead to a more skilled up workforce. Apprenticeships seem to be one of the main ways to plug the skills gap but questions are being asked about their quality and how long they should go on for. The government must look to the vocational education model in Germany that means not everyone is pushed down the academic route.


The construction sector is not the only industry facing a skills shortage but it is the one with the greatest ramifications for property. According to a report by the guardian the Local government association recently said the number of unbuilt properties with planning permission had reached a record high and it was found that major firms had land for more than 600,000 homes which had not been built.


Clearly the skills gap in the construction sector could have negative ramifications for property investors and especially those investing in new developments. A shortage of brick layers or engineers could mean that your vision for a new apartment block doesn’t come to fruition. University technical colleges set up by the Baker Deering trust seem to be an effective way of addressing this problem, so while property investors must be vigilant it is up to the government to support educational initiatives to plug the skills gap.