As the UK continues to come out of recession the construction industry is booming. According to industry tracking Markit Economics May saw a sharp upturn in commercial and civil engineering projects but it is residential construction that remains the biggest growth area. The majority of Purchasing Managers are expecting this trend to continue as more and more commercial projects being put out to tender. There is also likely to be a further bump in demand when a number of planned government infrastructure projects start coming online.
While all of this activity is great for the UK economy and the UK construction industry it is starting to cause problems. Some building and construction suppliers are already struggling to keep up with demand for materials. There are also increasing problems with construction recruitment.
The increasing amount of work around has also seen many sub-contractors putting their prices up. Tim Moore, Senior Economist at Markit explained that the “substantial” rise in sub-contractor charges highlights the “persistent skill shortages in the construction sector”. These sentiments are echoed by Richard Threlfall, from KPMG UK who has said that “The industry is about to be engulfed in a tidal wave of work but it’s struggling already with a huge skills shortage”.
In anticipation of this skills shortage, and in an effort to try and avoid high sub-contractor rates, many large construction companies are already going on recruitment drives to make sure they have enough workers for their key projects. The problem they, and smaller companies, face is that there are simply not enough skilled workers to go around in the UK construction industry and not enough being trained.
Supplying skilled construction workers
It is pretty well documented that many building projects now rely on foreign workers. Without skilled construction workers from outside the UK many projects, small and large, simply wouldn’t get done. But as the UK construction industry goes further afield to find the workers it needs we still need to make sure that everyone working on UK sites is working to the right standards and following the proper health and safety procedures.
Bling Work help lots of building companies in London to recruit workers, including those from outside of the UK. We ensure that everyone we send to a site is trained to the same standards regardless of where they come from. This means, at a minimum, making sure they have CSCS cards. In many cases we will also help workers with additional training on specific equipment they may need to use and in getting them up to speed on specific UK rules and regs for their trades.
Ultimately the skills shortage in the UK building industry is only going be solved if we train more young people. Trade groups such as the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) have suggested that more needs to be done to get UK firms to take on apprentices. Only 16,000 apprentices were trained in the UK building industry in 2013/2014 which is a fraction of the number needed. One policy the FMB have suggested is that the public sector, which accounts for 40% of UK construction output, should only give contracts to firms who have apprentices. Whether that will ever happen is uncertain, but one thing that we can confidently predict is that the competition for skilled workers will only increase in the next few months.