Changing perceptions: a surefire way to solve the skills shortage

The Government’s ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ white paper has identified a priority for housebuilders to invest more in training to help grow the workforce and tackle the increasing ‘skills shortage’ in the construction industry.

The shortage was recently recognised by Philip Hammond. In his Autumn Budget, there was a commitment to spend £64 million on construction training: £34 million going towards teaching skills like bricklaying and plastering and £30 million for digital courses using AI.

This is an issue we know needs addressing, but major infrastructure schemes, such as HS2 and Hinckley Point C, are going to put an additional strain on ‘human resources’. This was recently supported by CITB, who forecast that growth in the industry will create 158,000 jobs during the next 5-years.

Government whitepapers and funding may be a huge step in the right direction, but the biggest challenge is going to be encouraging young, talented people to take up a career in the construction industry and turn their backs on more glamorous choices, such as IT, telecommunications, automotive and finance.

And who can blame them; construction is dirty, low-paid, low-skilled, and an unsafe place to work, right?

Research carried out by CITB found that only 32% of careers guidance professionals believed they had a good knowledge of the industry. Knowledge at secondary schools was far less, with only one in five surveyed said their understanding of the industry was good. So it is unsurprising that young people have a poor perception of the industry if those advising them are ill-equipped.

So what is the answer? Across the UK 790,000 young people are categorised as not in education, employment or training (NEET) and have very limited pay and employment options. Now is the time for construction businesses to tap into this resource and offer them a step on the ladder to a well-paid and fulfilling career, through invaluable ‘on the job training’ and practical theory in a classroom.

Reaching out to local secondary schools is just as important if we are to attract more young people to the industry. By holding careers workshops, company representatives or former apprentices can promote the schemes, offer valuable advice and answer questions from students. It’s a fantastic industry to work in and we need to get out there and really sell it to them.

This is exactly what we are doing at M. Lambe Construction. We have created an apprenticeship/training programme and there are currently 39 young people working across various stages of education and development.

We have also invested in Premier Training College. The initiative is in collaboration with Thoughts of Others, a respected provider of care and education services in Birmingham. This partnership has enabled us to develop our own bespoke, high-quality training and apprenticeship programmes to provide young job seekers with the practical experience and skills needed to pursue a full-time career in the construction industry.

So, while the money and the will are there from the Government to solve the skills shortage, we need to do more to change the impression young people have of the industry; without them, we are going to struggle to find the manpower to deliver the new homes and create the infrastructure needed to satisfy our growing population.


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