The construction industry, like many others, have seen some gloomy days as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many sites have had to close completely, whilst others remained open but were forced to adjust their operations completely to enable them to comply with government safety guidelines. Despite the devastating toll throughout the industry, the construction sector has displayed some remarkable examples of resilience.
Now as the world cautiously takes its next steps back onto the road to normality, many are desperately looking to get back to work and employers are receiving more CVs than ever from people attempting to break into the sector.
However, the industry faces a skills shortage. The skills shortage in the construction industry has been a growing concern for many construction companies over the years. Despite the numerous amounts of applicants, the industry is still struggling to find the suitable candidates that possess the skills required for carrying out the necessary works.
Due to site closures many businesses are turning to heavy machinery to carry out the necessary tasks in an attempt to speed up site works and make up for lost time with projects that have fallen behind. However, with the need for machinery comes the need for their respective operators. Machinery operators must possess a wide range of skills such as technical knowledge, quality control and safety, not to mention the necessary qualifications to operate such machinery. As more time goes by, the problem becomes more pressing.
Which begs the question, how does the industry set out to solve the skills shortage?
Making a career in the industry seem desirable:
One potential solution to the industry skills shortage is to make the industry more desirable. Many, when they think of the construction industry are stuck with the misbelief that the industry is a dead end and is not an industry parents encourage their children to aspire to pursue, as they would as a career in law or in the medical profession, and so steer clear of the construction industry. Making a career in the construction industry seem desirable and more appealing will ensure that respective workers who do possess the necessary skills look to use their experience within the construction industry instead of looking to work in other industries.
Providing the opportunity for advancement:
The skills shortage in the construction sector could potentially be due to the workforce demographics. The construction industry workforce is known commonly as an “aging workforce”. A recent census displayed that the highest proportion of workers in construction are aged 40 to 44 years (13.4%), followed by 45 to 49 years (13.3%) and 35 to 39 years (11.1%). Education and schooling are vital when promoting a career in construction. Many young people are not aware of the vast array of jobs that come under the umbrella of the construction industry. Educating young people about the wealth of opportunities and career paths available will help incentivise them to consider a career in the industry. Careers in digital technology are becoming increasingly popular among young people and modernising construction techniques and advertising the new technologies available in the sector will increase the appeal for young people when choosing a prospective career path.
The industry needs to ensure that workers are provided the opportunity for advancement. The government has invested over £126 million into training and apprenticeship schemes across England over the course of this and last year, with many of these in construction. The government investment into these training programmes to ensure development of skill set. Many may not possess the skills needed simply because they have never been given the opportunity to learn and acquire them. Providing opportunities such as apprenticeships and work-based learning initiatives would just be one way of closing the skills gap, ensuring those have somewhere to train and acquire the necessary skills.
As previously stated, the skills shortage in the UK is not just down to a lack of new faces or the number of applicants but a serious lack of development and progression with the skills needed.
Many construction businesses already have a solid workforce, why not take the opportunity to re-educate them? Upskilling your already solid team means that they will already have a base knowledge of construction training and so half the work is already done. Existing workers are just as important as new workers and should not be overlooked. Building on these skills will not only cut training time in half but also shows your team that you are invested in them just as much as they are invested in you. Seeing a clear path for progression will incentivise more people to join the sector.
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