Construction industry needs more fresh talent, expert claims

Wednesday 30 July 2014

The UK jobs market is becoming more and more robust as the months wear on. The Recruitment Market Watch from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) painted a pretty pleasing picture of the landscape, with business confidence continuing to grow and demand for workers increasing. Indeed, the Office for National Statistics has stated that the number of people in work between February and April 2014 was 30.54 million.

Last month, four in five employers also told the REC and KPMG in the JobsOutlook that they intend to increase their permanent workforce.

However, this could all be threatened by the skills shortage and in the construction sector experts are now concerned that they could lose their ability to innovate.

Speaking to Kent Business, Network Rail senior director David Lindsay explained that fresh talent coming into the sector plays a huge role in driving it forwards.

This was seen on a project run during the Christmas period, which was achieved on a shorter timescale due to a 4D virtual construction plan that allowed various trades and disciplines to work on the project seamlessly 24 hours a day for a 15 day period.

Mr Lindsay claims this was made possible because of the tech-savvy minds of new recruits.

"It’s their years of experience with X-Box," he told the news provider. "Gravesend couldn’t have been achieved if not for construction people showing what is possible in 15 days.

"When things went wrong, we looked at the 4D plan and altered how we were going to approach it, meaning we still got the job done on time.

"That was driven by people challenging the norms of the industry and that is what we need to come through. We need to nurture talent in the industry."

Of course the skills shortage makes harnessing this innovation hard and the construction industry is struggling to get enough people to fill their needs. 

So severe is the skills shortage that Mark Syrett, southern regional business manager of JTL, told Kent Business that the construction industry is nearly at the point of no return.

The lack of talent is also putting the housing industry under threat. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) found in their Construction Market Survey for Q1 2014 that the skills shortage is affecting the rate of recovery - something likely to get worse as contractor availability decreases.

Alan Muse, Rics director of built environment, said: "Now that the industry is experiencing an upturn in workload that is broadening out across the whole of the UK, it must ensure it has the capability to capitalise on these opportunities."

Part of the problem, according to experts, is a perception that construction doesn't require high-level skills. Lauren Anning, director of development at Kent Association of Further Education Colleges, told Kent Business that there is a view that construction is about bricklaying and low-level trades. Often the reality isn't properly communicated to parents, carers and schools in order to encourage more young people into the sector.

By Victoria McDonnell

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