13/10/2020

The need to boost skills in the Construction sector

At the end of September, the National House Building Council (NHBC) announced the launch of its first ever apprenticeship scheme. It is aimed at developing the skills of the next generation of housebuilders, helping to manage the ongoing shortage of skills in the country’s construction sector.

Construction skills shortage
We wrote about this very issue a couple of years back. At the time, the headlines were reporting that the government would struggle to meet its house building targets due to the shortage of skilled construction workers. And at the same time, there was an overriding sense of unease around the prospect of Britain leaving the European Union. For the construction sector specifically, Brexit was predicted to worsen the situation. Today, much like the rest of the country, the industry has been hampered further by the pandemic. But let’s face it, the issue of a lack of skilled construction workers in the sector has been a growing one for some time.

Why are there skills shortages?
The problem overall is twofold: there is an ageing workforce in construction at present, and a lack of skilled workers are coming into the sector. Back in 2019, recruitment site CV-Library shared their Q4 quarterly job market report, which showed Construction having a 19.9% increase in job applications compared to the same time the year before. These were encouraging signs that the sector is heading in the right direction.
But overall, one of the biggest issues is that construction is not seen as a desirable career path for the younger generation. It presents itself as a difficult industry to work in for several reasons. However, there are ways we can work to overcome this, including better education about the sector. Young people need to understand what working in construction is really like. And within the industry there needs to be more training done to develop skills and talent, thus retaining workers in the sector for years to come. Even improving the gender balance within construction is needed, to open the doors to more females who would like a career in the industry.

Addressing the issue
The government, housebuilders, and even companies like the NHBC, are all aware of the skills shortage issues. That is why it is welcome news to see the NHBC has become an Education and Skills Funding Agency-approved provider of apprenticeships. The first apprenticeship to start is the Construction Site Supervisor (CSS), which will be delivered by the NHBC Training team. With the tutors having decades of construction and coaching experience between them, they will be able to demonstrate how vital the roles of site supervisors and managers play in the delivery of new homes. Ultimately, apprentices will come to understand the difference a good site manager makes on a development. The NHBC know from their own experience and data that good site management makes a positive impact on quality standards.
And scheduled for later in the year, their second apprenticeship will launch, in bricklaying.

The future is construction
All the major housebuilders in the UK play their part in training the construction workers of tomorrow. They are after all at the forefront of the problem, requiring skilled workers to complete high-quality, new build projects across the country. They all offer some form of apprenticeship, or other means of learning the trade, whether that’s on site or behind the scenes. But, as construction in this country continues to move at pace, so must the training and recruitment of new workers. There’s never been a more important time to ‘sell the benefits’ that a career in construction can bring, and to make it a more accessible industry for all. With this done, the future can indeed be an exciting one for construction.

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