We all know that there is a skills gap in the construction industry. As a country the UK simply does not train enough young people to work in construction making it hard for construction companies to recruit the skilled staff that they need. Shortages could get worse in the next few years as uncertainly over Brexit may discourage the 12% of the construction workforce who are immigrants from staying. With another 19% of the construction workforce due to retire in the next five to ten years it is vital that training and recruitment into the construction industry works smoothly. Two new studies released this month highlight the scale of the problem.
A new survey by Redrow found that 50% of young people said they had not been given any information about careers in construction. This included verbal conversations with teachers and careers advisors as well as the careers literature available in their school. While schools were bad at discussing construction careers with young people the same survey found that 72% of parents have never discussed the prospect of a career in construction with their child. It is perhaps not surprising therefore that 52% of young people surveyed reported that they had never considered a career in construction.
Much of the reluctance among parents to discuss construction careers with their children was down to the perception of it being a low skill and low wage industry. These attitudes have carried over into their children with 55% of young people believing a career in construction mainly involves manual labour while 19% of young people believe a career in construction does not require any qualifications beyond GCSEs. There is, therefore, still a long way to go to educate schools, parents and young people about the opportunities available in construction.
While there is work to do to get more young people to apply for construction careers another new report suggests that more needs to improve the training new recruits receive. Research by the Unite union has found that 89% of people beginning a construction training course are studying for classroom based qualifications. The main qualifications recognised in the construction industry are NVQs which can only be gained with significant time on site. Without an NVQ it is not normally possible to get a Construction Sector Certification Scheme (CSCS) card which is required to get work on sites. 192,500 people started a classroom based construction course in 2015/16 compared to just 21,460 people who started an apprenticeship.
So, it seems that if we want to solve the problems with recruiting enough skilled workers into the construction industry there is still a lot to do. As an industry we need to make sure that the training we offer is up to scratch and then do more to make sure young people are aware of the careers and opportunities available.