The Chartered Institute of Building have released their latest report (PDF) on skills shortages in the UK construction industry, based on a survey of 1,346 uk based construction professionals. The findings are not at all surprising and make for depressing reading.
Skill shortages are nothing new, even at the height of the property boom the industry was failing when it came to training and education and the situation has become steadily worse as businesses focus on surviving day-to-day rather than planning for the future.
According to the latest survey 82% of respondents believe a skill shortage exists which is a 5% increase since the last survey in 2011. And 51% state their businesses are not actively recruiting apprentices at the moment although, conversely, 90% of the same people questioned believe apprentices are key in filling the skills gap?
A lack of current workloads and low confidence of securing future orders were cited as reasons for this.
As might be expected, trade and technical skills were most in demand as well as a recognition of a severe deficit in leadership and management skills. This is worrying as the industry is likely to require more managers with refined skills in order to meet the challenge that initiatives such as the Green Deal and BIM (Building Information Modelling) will require in coming years.
78% of respondents acknowledged a real need for training with only 44% believing that skills level in general are sufficient to cope with Green Deal.
For construction related courses universities have seen a decline in numbers of students over the last two years, this can be explained by increases in tuition fees but may also due to prospective candidates having low confidence in finding work once they graduate? While this may be a problem that affects the economy as a whole it is felt to be most pronounced in the construction industry.
And, despite recent investment in the apprenticeship program as a whole, research by CITB has found the numbers of construction apprenticeships running at half the levels of four years ago from 14,000 a year to 8,000.
There was little optimism for the prospects of improvement with the majority of respondents believing construction demand will remain stable while the numbers employed will decrease. Research from CITB Construction Skills suggests a slightly more optimistic view of just less than 1% growth year on year until 2017 which will lead to greater demand on a decreasing number of people.
Some sectors within the industry show more promise, however, demand for housing is predicted to grow and there is to be additional funding for infrastructure projects from the government as well as green deal spending on maintenance and repair of the existing housing stock.
The most popular university course subjects, according to UCAS (Total number of All applications in 2011 By Subject group (JACS2)(All), are Medicine, Business & Finance, Creative Arts and Social Studies with Architecture, Building & Planning coming 18th in a table of 25 . The outlook, therefore, is not encouraging and it’s not difficult to understand why young people do not see construction as an industry with great prospects.
However, those already working in the industry or studying to do so should take heart that they have skills which will become increasingly in demand over the coming years.