Skills-shortage could halt recovery of the construction industry?
A lot of hope is riding on the reported recovery of the construction industry, which is worth 10% of the UK economy’s GDP.
The construction sector is particularly vulnerable to downturns, weakening faster than the rest of the economy in 2008 when the recession first hit and then again in 2012, which prompted many to label the industry as succumbing to a double-dip. Although the 10% GDP contribution is relatively minor, it has proven to be crucial to the health of the economy with weak output in the sector being the main cause for a drag in growth at the beginning of 2012. This has led the government to recognise the value of the construction industry to the economy and there have since been a number of government schemes to help promote its recovery.
A study based on the 2013 second quarter subsequently declared improvements across the sector and throughout the supply chain. Even small businesses, which suffered particularly badly, showed signs of an increase in activity for the first time since 2007- government initiatives such as Help to Buy have boosted house-building which has been a major trigger for the progress.
However, these encouraging findings also bring new challenges. Despite high unemployment persisting, the upturn meant an increase in demand for labour which has not been met; with those in the industry citing a skills-shortage as the cause. This in turn is said to have been caused by a lack of training and investment by both the government and the industry. While there is said to have been an increase in the number of construction companies taking on trainees and apprentices, there has also been the discovery of a lack of senior staff such as managers and supervisors due to those who worked in these positions retiring without being replaced.
The findings have provoked serious concerns over whether the industry will be able to cope with the increased demand in housing with fears that a skills shortage could halt the encouraging growth the industry has been enjoying.
Fortunately there have been moves towards encouraging more young people into the sector such as construction site open doors weekends which invite young people to visit a site with the aim of inspiring them to consider a career in the industry as well as hoping to dispel misconceptions. Investment such as this in training and promotion of the huge diversity of jobs within the industry will attempt to tackle the rising demand, but the industry may struggle to adapt to the growth in the short term.