Leading land agents Aston Mead are calling for a radical re-think to address the acute skills shortage in the UK construction industry.
It’s currently estimated that in order to deliver the homes required, the country must hire at least 400,000 construction workers a year for the next five years.
Aston Mead Land & Planning Director Adam Hesse said: “Put simply, the building industry is in crisis. There just aren’t enough construction workers with the necessary level of expertise to meet government housing targets. And because non-UK nationals make up more than half of the workforce, the situation will become even more challenging when we leave the European Union next year.”
A recent survey by the British Property Federation has found that two-fifths of its members believed continued access to skills and talent after Brexit was the most important factor for the property industry.
Adam Hesse adds: “All of which means that our current levels of education and training need to be transformed, in order to keep pace with our changing needs. Firstly, we need to make the idea of working in construction more attractive to young students. We need to explain that bricklayers can earn between £40k and £60k a year, and experienced plumbers between £60k and £100k. That should encourage more people to enter the profession in the first place.
“Then we need to think about the long-term unemployed. Why don’t we make them do a day release at college and learn about basic bricklaying? They would only receive their dole payment if they attended the course, and they would learn a valuable skill into the bargain. Over time, that should help increase the number of people with the right skills available out there.”
Adam Hesse welcomes the creation of a new training and skills body being set up by the University College of Estate Management (UCEM) to coordinate the industry’s approach to addressing the skills shortage, but says more need to be done.
He explains: “In addition, we should increase investment in basic construction skills being taught in the UK’s prisons. We should extend the schemes already in place teaching scaffolding, painting and decorating to those behind bars. These courses have already proved very popular with former prisoners and employers alike. Not only does it help with the shortage of skills, but it keeps prisoners active inside, and provides them with a chance to get well paid work when they are released, which means they are less likely to offend again. It’s win/win all round.
“Ultimately, this crisis in the construction sector isn’t going to go away without a radical new approach; dealing with one of the most serious problems currently in our industry means simply tinkering at the edges is no longer enough.”