Tackling the skill shortage in construction

Construction is a growing industry that employs almost three million1 people in the UK, contributing around £100bn1 every year to the British economy. But when it comes to career choices and employment, it's seriously undervalued – and facing a skills shortage that could stop it in its tracks.

The government has ambitious plans to invest £500bn2 in infrastructure projects over the next few years. But the question is, whether we'll have the skills and the workforce to meet that demand – especially post-Brexit. One study suggests that the construction industry would need to recruit 400,0003 people each year from now until 2021, to deliver on those plans. That's one person every 77 seconds!

A growing problem

To understand the shortage, we need to go back to 2008 and the financial crisis. Many construction jobs were lost and the industry's never fully recovered, with employment 15%4 lower now than it was then. It's also not an industry that attracts young people; a recent survey among 14 to 19 year olds5 showed that construction was seen as 'dirty work for people who don't get into college or university'. Another report shows it's perceived to be low paid.6 Add to that the fact that nearly 25% of the current workforce is over the age of 50, and 15% in their 60s,5 you can see the scale of the problem. 

The solution

While this problem isn't going to be solved overnight, many businesses think the answer lies in recruiting temporary workers, often with the intention of converting them to permanent staff once they get a taste of the industry.7 Another crucial route will be to invest in apprentices and equip them with the skills and experience we'll need for the future. 

Employing more temporary and young workers may be the way forward, but it will have implications for health and safety, and your construction company insurance. Find out more by looking at our useful infographic.

construction skills shortage infographic


1 prospects.ac.uk/property-and-construction/skills-shortages-in-construction
2 rics.org/uk/news/news-insight/press-releases/uk-construction-industry-could-lose-8-of-workforce-post-brexit-new-rics-figures-reveal-/