Skills Shortage

Blog Author: Christine Townley – Executive Director, Construction Youth Trust

It’s been well known in the industry for many years that we are facing a skills shortage caused by an ageing construction workforce and the return to economic growth. It’s vital that the industry plans for the future and secures the talent and skills needed, so that it has recruited effectively for the workforce of tomorrow. There is a lack of young people coming into the industry to sustain it at the moment – only about 10% of those working in the industry are aged between 19 and 24, with 1-2% aged between 16 and 18. But as the current workforce ages and retires, the sustainability of the industry lies with these young people and we all need to be doing more to nurture new talent and recruit the sheer numbers of young employees needed to get the industry ready for a brighter future.

According to CITB more than 182,000 construction jobs are set to be created in the next few years. It’s a lot of people to recruit and train, especially in a time when, according to a report by Direct Line for Business, the gap between available apprenticeships in construction and those starting and completing apprenticeships has fallen. Apprenticeships are an excellent way of introducing young talent to the sector and now the higher level apprenticeships can also attract bright school leavers who would rather learn on the job than run up large university debts. However, how many young people consider construction as a career? Are they aware of the range of roles available and the opportunities it can bring them?

Construction Youth Trust is working to raise awareness of the range of construction careers available to young people. We work with young people every day and we know there is lot of talent within the 16-24 year old age range. Currently over 1 million of them are not in employment, education or training (NEET) so we urgently need to reach out to these young people. Through the provision of courses aimed at both the trades and professions we enable them to discover the vast array of careers construction can offer. If we can raise awareness and inspire them, then we have a chance at solving the skills shortage issue we’re facing.

Giving young people the chance to experience construction first hand through our courses and through work experience placements, the future talent of the industry can be exposed to the huge array of careers open to them in construction and the built environment. We need to work with the industry to raise awareness, not only amongst young people, but their parents, teachers and stakeholders about the roles available and the progression options they offer.
Vital to the growth of the industry and key to attracting more young people is to ensure the construction industry continues to challenge negative perceptions and celebrate diversity in the sector – specifically around encouraging more young women and those from the LGBT community to enter the industry.
There are many construction companies who support our work by offering work placements and funding courses – but with more support, we could reach even more young people – the future of the industry depends on it.

Christine is a chartered civil engineer with experience in both construction and education having supervised major construction projects and helped in the development of national adult skills projects for the Basic Skills Agency. Combining these two passions, Christine is now the Executive Director of Construction Youth Trust, a charity working with industry to support young people from all backgrounds to inspire and enable the next generation of constructors.