Features - Brexit

Bridging the gap: Ibstock encourages more young people to consider career in construction

The recently published Construction Skills Network report, from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), paints a stark picture of the extent of the UK’s construction industry skills gap.

The annual industry forecast found that the UK’s construction output rose by 2% in 2023, the third year of consecutive growth, with further annual growth of 2.4% expected between now and 2028.

To meet that growth, a further 251,500 additional construction professionals will need to join the industry over the next five years. But how realistic is that target?

As one of the UK’s leading building materials manufacturers, Ibstock has long recognised the vital need to attract more young people to the construction sector and the importance of collaboration with other industry partners to address some of the barriers that prevent new talent from taking up the tools.

Jo HodgePeople, Sustainability and Social Impact Director at Ibstock says: “The CITB’s report highlights a pressing shortfall of skilled

The recently published Construction Skills Network report, from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), paints a stark picture of the extent of the UK’s construction industry skills gap.

Jo Hodge

workers that are needed to meet current growth and help fulfil the government’s target of 300,000 new build homes up to the end of the decade, notwithstanding the need for more social housing in the UK.

“The reasons for the skills gap are numerous, but it’s fair to say circumstances in the UK have created a perfect storm for such a gap to widen. First and foremost, we have an ageing construction workforce – more than 35% of skilled professionals are over the age of 50, presenting a significant challenge for industry vitality. Secondly, the ongoing after-effects of Brexit, and the subsequent departure of EU workers, means more than 46,000 skilled construction workers have since left the UK. Additionally, there are outdated perceptions about the industry that serve to deter school and college leavers from even considering a career in construction in the first place; stereotypes that bear no reflection on what a rewarding, innovative and progression-packed industry construction can be for young people.

“Here at Ibstock, we believe it is vitally important that the industry improves how it communicates the benefits of a career in construction to tomorrow’s talent. After all, the benefits are numerous. As a sector, it offers career progression and development, with a clear pathway for advancement, which can lead from apprenticeships to senior management roles.

“Indeed, the construction industry has a long and valuable history when it comes to apprenticeships, and still retains some of the best and most competitive apprenticeship schemes in the UK job market. Construction apprenticeships are a fantastic way of developing skills and real-world experience, whilst earning money.

“At Ibstock, we offer a competitive apprenticeship scheme which enables learners to experience several different roles across our business. Our vocational learning programme first launched in 2012 and has since encouraged dozens of talented young people to pursue a career in construction.

“And there’s more than enough work to support those apprentices. The CITB’s growth stats speak for themselves – construction professionals are needed more than ever.

“The construction sector also offers competitive rewards. According to CITB data, skilled tradespeople can earn significantly above the national average, with opportunities for increased earnings as experience and expertise grows. It is also important to remember that the industry encompasses a wide range of roles beyond traditional building, including project management, design, engineering and sustainability, alongside with support function roles such as HR, Finance, IT or Marketing. Indeed, the skillsets needed in construction have diversified massively over the past two decades, so there really is no such thing as a ‘typical’ construction profile anymore.

“At Ibstock, we believe one of the biggest drivers that attracts the next generation of construction talent will be digitisation and ongoing technological advancements, making the sector an attractive prospect for tech-savvy workers. We’ve already seen how innovations such as BIM modelling have reshaped how projects are designed, planned and executed, but there are other exciting advances to consider, too. This will include virtual and augmented reality, which is already transforming training for new recruits, providing immersive experiences that enhance learning and project planning. And, as with every sector, I’d expect AI to become an increasingly ubiquitous part of day-to-day work, via smart tools and wearable technology that will be used to improve site safety and productivity.

“Now, more than ever before, the UK construction industry is at a pivotal juncture. A growing skills gap, coupled with a deepening housing crisis, should be seen as a clarion call to action. Addressing the skills gap will require a concerted effort from the entire supply chain to promote the sizeable benefits a career in construction can represent, dispelling outdated myths and ensuring we continue to attract the best and brightest to help the industry reach its full potential.”

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