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Skills shortages strangling construction sector

Recent research from City & Guilds Group shows that one in 20 construction companies believe their workforce doesn’t have the necessary skills for now, or the future.

The new report, developed in collaboration with The Work Foundation, explores the challenges facing the UK construction sector, with members of the industry citing skills as a major problem.

City & Guilds Group is now calling upon the Government and industry representatives to take action to future-proof the construction sector through lifelong learning, upskilling and reskilling initiatives.

“Constructing the future: How the skills needed for success in the workplace are changing” highlights the importance of the UK construction industry for the UK economy, as the fourth largest sector by turnover and the fifth largest by employment. Despite the size of the industry, as technology has advanced, many believe the workforce doesn’t have the necessary skills for the future.

Examining the main issues facing the industry today, the report reveals that the majority of companies (54%) are impacted by growing skills shortages, while productivity and investment both remain low, resulting in stunted profits across the sector.

In terms of the workforce, self-employment is on the rise and the industry is struggling to attract and retain young workers; the number of younger professionals in construction has fallen to a third of the level it was in 2005. Finally, a lack of consideration being given to learning and development is impacting all tiers of construction professionals from entry level up to senior management, with little more than half of employers providing training – which is predominantly in health and safety.

Chris Jones, CEO City & Guilds Group, commented: “The majority of people in employment now will still be in the workforce in 30 years’ time. For the construction industry, that’s almost two million professionals who know that their skills are already becoming outdated thanks to technological advances. To survive the numerous challenges the industry faces, and boost productivity, the workforce will need to develop digital, analytical, and interpersonal skills – and that requires new standards, training and qualifications.

“As the world of work continues to evolve, it’s essential that construction businesses understand the role they play in upskilling and reskilling their workforces. But there’s also a job to be done by the Government, to support these employers, by ensuring they have the necessary policies in place – as well as funds – to make this a reality. The growth and success of the industry hinges on the ability of our skills system to adapt and develop to prepare for the jobs of the future.”

The report provides five key recommendations, for the Government, the construction industry and education sector to collaborate and take action:

  1. Industry and training collaboration

Representatives of the construction industry and training providers must collaborate to ensure high quality and relevant learning for leadership and management, technical and digital expertise, and soft skills.

  1. Apprenticeship alignment

The industry and apprenticeship levies must be aligned and revised to ensure they support all forms of learning and development necessary as the industry experiences technical and organisational change.

  1. Inclusive initiatives

Upskilling and reskilling initiatives, such as the National Retraining Scheme, must meet the needs of the entire workforce from the outset, especially the self-employed, sole traders or those within micro-business.

  1. Diverse learning and development schemes

Learning and development schemes must reflect the diversity of activities within the construction industry, and provide more opportunities for young people to experience real-life activities, including through digital platforms.

  1. Tax relief for self-employed

HMRC tax relief for training should ensure that self-employed workers are incentivised to participate in learning, by recognising the costs of such activities and offering simple schemes to offset again income.

The full report can be downloaded here.

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