Features - Brexit

Skills challenges for the construction industry

The construction industry has been struck with a plethora of unprecedented challenges over the last two years, comprising of Brexit, supply chain shortages, net-zero targets, not to mention COVID-19 and the associated challenges.

The latest stumbling block property developers and construction companies alike are having to consider is the skills shortages within the sector.

In this Q&A, CEO of North West-based Vermont Construction Group Mark Connor, discusses the skills challenges the construction industry currently faces, what the future looks like for construction, as well as the next steps in attracting the best talent.

Mark Connor

What challenges do you currently see in the construction industry?

Supply chain challenges continue to threaten delivery of projects across the country, making it harder to access and distribute materials from outside of the UK. In combination with energy prices driving inflation upwards, a perfect storm of challenges is on the horizon – and we expect this to continue in the coming year.

With supply chain shortages and inflation dominating the narrative of challenges facing the construction industry at the moment, this has again brought into the spotlight those skills shortages we are currently experiencing.

We are now starting to experience the repercussions of Brexit restricting access to skilled EU operatives. The UK leaving the EU has made it more difficult to bring those migrant workers to the UK, and meet the construction industry’s demand for skilled workers.

This is not an issue that is exclusive to the construction industry. Now, we are competing against other sectors to attract the best talent, from a smaller resource pool, making it even harder to see how we can continue to drive continuing growth across the construction sector.

How can the industry promote its best talent?

Over the last 20 to 30 years, there has needed to be a change in attitude for the industry as a whole in how we market ourselves, and in turn, attract the best talent.

Collectively, the construction industry needs to reinvent the wheel and establish itself as being seen as more progressive. By progressive, this means our ability to embrace change – like adopting the latest advances into digital and tech – as well as, dealing with those environmental changes which are now essential across the sector.

Over a number of years, hard work has been completed to ensure the construction industry is inclusive to all, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation, and we are beginning to reap the rewards. There are great opportunities for all to progress, but it is all about promoting these to ensure we are tapping into a larger resource pool for talent.

Ideally, we would be communicating to younger people at the start of their careers – either in school, college or university – and informing them of the varied opportunities the construction industry offers. Historically, the construction industry has been seen as a second choice for many to university once they have left school, but given the changing face of construction and with extensive training and development programmes being offered currently, this should no longer be the case.

We need to create an environment that will attract the next generation of bright thinkers to the property and construction sector. 

Those that choose to pursue a career in the construction industry will find unlimited opportunities for growth in well-paid sector. Also, there are no barriers to starting your journey in construction. Individuals are not limited by qualifications, only by their own ambition and application.

At Vermont, we are keen to explore how we can assist young people in the North West embark in a career in construction. We are currently working with a number of local organisations to explore how we can support initiatives to get young people into work and develop a career in the construction industry.

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