A little while ago I was challenged on my views about a lack of youth coming through the ranks in this industry and the wider construction industry as a whole. My frustration is that in our industry, as well as many other trades, there is simply a chronic lack of youth and new skill coming into the market to replace those that are leaving it. Its a problem that I believe is rapidly out of control. And a report in the Guardian today reinforces my concern.
Portuguese builders due to UK shortage
The news headlines today I thought made for quite embarrassing reading. Many news outlets were covering the story that UK building firms were having to hire non-UK builders at an eye watering £1000 per week simply because we didn’t have the man power here. What’s more, the Guardian went on to say:
One in three large construction firms in London are having to turn down bidding opportunities because of a shortage of skilled workers, said Manpower.
Construction companies are now losing out on work due to a lack of skills and man power. And when construction suffers, all related industries suffer as a result, including our own. If projects don’t get built, there’s no windows or doors to order, no plasterers to employ, no electricians to hire etc. We want our construction sector to be bidding and winning as much business as possible.
But they’re not, because as a country we haven’t been able to supply enough skilled, young and ready builders to fill the gaps caused by a buoyant construction sector. Hence brickies are being outsourced from the UK. If I was a European right now, looking at the lack of labour in the UK and the wages some companies are paying, I’d be rubbing my hands and getting myself a plane ticket. The situation on the continent is a lot worse than it is here, it must seems a very tempting prospect to come to the UK even for just a few months and earn some fantastic cash.
The real problem here however is the fundamental issue of the skills gap. We have had a period up until recently where apprenticeships in trades weren’t even on the radar in the education system. I know they weren’t when I was in Sixth Form nearly nine years ago. And it hasn’t much improved. But it created a vacuum in it’s place, for which we are now paying the price, literally!
Hope on the horizon?
It may not all be bad news however. The Guardian goes on to report:
Cahill said: “2014 was a bumper year for jobseekers, with the highest level of job creation in 40 years. 2015 will begin with employers in an even more confident position and we are optimistic about job prospects for the rest of the year. The main catalyst is big business hiring.”
Manpower said its research showed that employment prospects in the construction industry were at their strongest level since 2007.
North East England employers reported the brightest outlook for jobs among the regions.
Optimism seems to be rising that UK employers might be in a better position next year to start hiring skilled British workers at normal rates. I sincerely hope so as the skills shortage is now costing people and companies quite a lot of money.