Construction Skills Gap: A Hot Topic

The entire construction sector will need to employ 230,000 new workers by 2020 to meet the current skills gap, according to recent figures from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

Although the amount of workers employed in the industry has been steadily increasing over the last few years, we are still falling behind pre-recession figures. During the peak our workforce consisted of 2.58 million people, however the impact of the financial crash in 2008 – where many construction industry professionals were forced out of their jobs – saw this figure drastically fall.

While we’ve all worked extremely hard to recover from this, there is still work to do, as current employment figures show little more than 2.25 million people work in the UK construction industry today.

The effects of the financial crash on the construction industry have not only impacted the building trades such as bricklaying and specialist disciplines such as fire engineering, but also the wider economy.

In line with the wider economy, the Construction Products Association (CPA) forecasts that construction output is set to increase by 20 per cent over the next four years alone, however without the skilled professionals required to carry out the work, this target won’t be achieved easily.

This demand for skilled workers has also seen a sharp rise in wages, along with numerous projects now falling behind schedule as contractors struggle to fill roles. Along with adding to project costs, the effects of the skills gap also make it difficult for the industry to meet targets set out in initiatives such as the Government’s Construction 2025, where lower costs and faster delivery are amongst the four main objectives.

How do we overcome this employment crisis?

While the need for nearly a quarter of a million new workers demonstrates the expected growth in UK construction, unless we’re able to harness a wide variety of talent from each sector (fire engineering in our case) the growth that we’ve been seeing over the last few years will eventually slow down.

Of course, attracting young people into the industry is vital. One method is to work directly with schools and colleges. By doing so, we’ll be able to demonstrate the great, varied opportunities available to students today. Unfortunately for us in fire engineering – and many other sectors within construction – the vast majority of young people aren’t aware that the profession exists, let alone the exciting variety of projects we work on, on a daily basis. By talking to prospective students, we can inspire the next generation of construction professionals and guide them on the right path to join our growing industry.

Training from the ground up at FDS Consult UK

Due to the levels of theory required to become a fire engineer, a relevant degree is essential. Here at FDS Consult UK, we have always been a keen supporter of hiring graduates, with many having successfully worked their way up through the ranks in our team. Although we do require a degree, the highly skilled follow-up work of installing our systems can be taught through the many great apprenticeship schemes available, which are quickly becoming the route of entry for many young construction professionals.

The benefit of earning as you learn has seen a significant rise in the number of applicants signing up to apprenticeships schemes. With the CITB recently reporting a 12% increase in construction apprenticeships in the UK over the past six years – a post-recession high– it seems that this different approach to harnessing talent is paying off.

Unfortunately, the work doesn’t stop once we’ve filled our roles. The 343,000 construction workers who have left the industry since the recession, along with the 400,000 we’re set to lose over the next decade to retirement, highlights the importance of retaining our current workforce.

One of the ways this can be achieved is to provide ongoing training and allowing our workforce to develop. At FDS Consult UK, we provide any training required. Not only is this beneficial to our team as at allows them to develop within their role, but it also ensures that we are able to provide the best possible service offering to our clients. The prospect of improved training also provides an incentive for those skilled workers who left the industry during the financial crash to return.

Coming together as an industry

While the vast majority of us in the construction industry have worked extremely hard to overcome the issues presented to us by the skills gap, by joining our efforts we have the potential to do even more. This is why we’re pleased to announce that FDS Consult UK is now an official partner of Construction United, a new initiative set to improve the image of construction and tackle some of the sector’s most pressing issues.

Made up of a range of key construction industry stakeholders and organisations, Construction United hopes that by working collaboratively as a sector, we can remove common misconceptions of construction. The perception that construction is dirty and unskilled is still a belief held by many, therefore we hope that by working alongside an organisation such as Construction United, we can help to remove these views and show people the great work that we can do, and the wide range of careers available to young people.


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