Published On: Tue, Apr 28th, 2015

Young workers offer solution to the construction skills shortage

You may have read the headlines about a shortage of ‘brickies’ in the UK which was becoming a cause for concern among house builders. It appears this was only the tip of the iceberg as the UK faces an acute skills crisis in the construction sector. The situation is completely understandable when you consider that 400,000 construction-related jobs were lost during the recession. With the upturn well underway, many of those 400,000 workers have found work in other sectors and are now more than content in their new jobs – and very unlikely to return to the often unpredictable construction sector. Signs are that this skills shortage is now beginning to affect the window industry, especially in the installation side of the sector. Whether there are regional fluctuations or not, what is clear is that installation firms are having great difficulty in finding new fitters to help cope with the returning levels of installation jobs.

As the economy improves it is estimated that nearly 200,000 more workers are needed to build roads, houses and other planned infrastructures by 2018. In previous years, temporary fixes to the labour shortage were often delivered by recruiting foreign workers, but nowadays this can prove a very expensive solution. Neil Robinson of 4GE Academy highlights this issue in his article on page 122 of this issue. I can back this up with my own experience of the increased levels of enquiries via our jobs web portal Firms need more fitters but they don’t really know where to find them. As we move closer to the General Election, the issue of employment will become the focus for the majority of the political parties. This is an issue that Neil Robinson is concerned about, as he views schemes such as the Government’s Trailblazer programme to get employers to establish more relevant standards for apprenticeships, to be a minefield of bureaucracy. However, the underlying principle of apprenticeships and offering trades to young people is the right solution to the problem. I recently visited a heating and plumbing firm for and it was encouraging to see that each engineer had two apprentices with him. The young apprentices were extremely keen to make it a success and just wanted a chance to prove themselves. The big question is, have we left it too late? Is the skills gap too wide? You may have to pay over the odds for foreign workers to fix the problem in the short term, but the message is clear; invest in the future now by recruiting from the UK’s eager and able young people.

John Cowie

Editor – Windows Active Magazine