Spring always marks a renewed focus on recruitment, retention and other construction career issues.
There is January’s ‘New Year, New Job’ mindset, February’s , National Apprenticeships Week, and March’s National Careers Week - all leading into the crucial summer, when the latest cohort of young people enter the job market.
But this year, the focus on the skills shortages in construction is more urgent than ever.
The raw figures explain why. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes regular data in its ‘Labour Market Overview’, with all employment-related statistics for the UK. The figures from the ONS covering October to December 2021 show that job vacancies in the construction sector were 50% higher than the same period the year before, and 61% up on pre-Covid levels. An estimated 500,000 UK-born workers are likely to leave the sector in the next 10 years as they come to retirement age.
The CITB’s Construction Skills Network forecast in 2021 calculated that the industry’s annual average recruitment requirement was 4.4% a year between now and 2025 – far outstripping the current prediction of an annual growth rate of just 1% over the same period. It estimated that construction needs to recruit another 217,000 new workers by 2025 just to meet current demand, even before we consider the requirements of new developments in digital construction and sustainability.
This shouldn’t be a shock. We’ve known for many years that we were getting to this point, watching the ticking demographic timebomb of an ageing workforce and the impact of decades of neglect in terms of early careers training and development. And as predicted, Brexit has also played a big part in the availability of skilled workers. According to the ONS, there was a four percent decline in UK-born workers by the end of 2020, but a much more significant 42% fall in EU workers.
So what is being done about this? There is now a wide range of initiatives underway designed to help all businesses in the construction industry. Indeed, meeting the skills challenge is a top priority identified by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) for the years ahead.
Among the CLC objectives this year it is specifically targeting apprenticeships, aiming to return numbers to pre-Covid levels to meet future skills needs. And there is lots of help available to employers interested in exploring apprenticeships.
For example, to mark this year’s National Apprenticeship Week and its very apposite theme of ‘Build the Future’, a series of apprenticeship toolkits were launched by the CITB to support construction employers with hiring an apprentice.
Acting as a one-stop shop for support and guidance, the website toolkits simplify access to information and reduce the obstacles that often deter employers from looking into the process. Starting at the beginning of the journey, they detail the various routes to hiring an apprentice across England, Scotland, and Wales. From there, there’s a choice of four other sections to explore, including support available from CITB. This could be practical support, assisting employers with completing paperwork, or financial support, with a breakdown on how to claim funding for an apprentice.
With much of the industry relying on word-of-mouth methods to recruit, the toolkits also include advice on writing apprenticeship adverts, interview guidance and links to additional resources on integrating Fairness, Inclusion and Respect principles, to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
Stace, a construction and property consultancy, published its updated Next Gen research in January. The report looks at the challenges in the construction industry and what the next generation face in the current climate. Interviewing over 800 16-18 year olds across the UK, the research has tracked the perception of entering construction for a career. The report also provides a step-by-step guide on how all parts of the industry can work together to sell construction to the next generation.
Talentview Construction was also launched about six months ago, an early careers initiative supported by Government, the CLC, universities, colleges and construction industry employers, and funded by the industry CITB levy.
Entirely free for all to use, Talentview Construction makes it easier for those searching for a career in construction and the built environment to join the sector. Employers can use it to showcase their business to talented new recruits on the TVC site, and upload all their early career vacancies, including traineeships, apprenticeships and graduate jobs. They can also search for suitable candidates and directly contact students and apprentices, as well as connecting more closely with schools, universities and construction colleges.