There is an “urgent need” to plug the construction skills gap if the government wants to achieve its target of 300,000 new homes a year, say industry experts, as EU workers return home amid uncertainty over Brexit.
The problem is particularly acute in London. Half of construction workers in the capital were not born in Britain and most of them were from the EU, according to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). One in eight construction workers is from overseas, and one in four of them is unsure about whether they will be in the UK in a year’s time, the CITB says.
It says that migration masks the challenge the industry faces from an ageing workforce as fewer young people are trained. It is most in need of architects, plasterers, plumbers, glaziers, carpenters/joiners and electricians. More than 30 per cent of British-born construction workers are over 50.
“It is already getting harder to attract and retain migrant workers and the quality of migrant workers seems to be falling,” Steve Radley, policy director at the CITB, says. “If we’re going to be delivering 300,000 homes every year we’ll clearly need to be doing a lot more to get the right skills into the industry. If we have breathing space it will give people time to create more apprenticeships and invest in new technology. If there is a sudden situation in two years where most of the overseas workforce leaves this will be significantly harder.”
The government has a target of three million new apprenticeships by 2020. In April an apprenticeship levy was brought in for all employers in the UK with an annual wage bill above £3 million, who must put 0.5 per cent of their pay bill into a pot for apprenticeship funding.
More than two thirds of construction companies are investing in staff development and just over half are setting up apprenticeship schemes, according to a Lloyds report this week. Also 61 per cent are investing in ways to reduce skilled labour, such as modular housing, where homes are made centrally.
However, the number of new apprenticeships fell by 26.5 per cent, to 114,400 starts, between August and October compared with the same period the year before, according to the Department for Education.
Source: The Telegraph
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