How to save the construction industry workforce crisis

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Construction industry workforce, skills shortage

With the construction industry facing its biggest skills shortage since 2007, Ryan Latham, senior marketing executive for 3B Training, takes a look at the importance of recruiting new talent

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) believes that more than 200,000 skilled workers are needed by the mid-2020s.

It doesn’t help that the industry is also suffering from an ageing workforce. Data from the 2011 census showed that one in five employees in the construction industry workforce were aged over 55.

This means that by 2020 the industry will lose a fifth of its workforce to retirement — without enough newcomers to replace them.

The solution is to attract young workers to close the skills gap and ensure that there’s enough manpower for the construction industry to hit its targets. However, it’s not that simple.

Break down preconceptions

The industry is still seen as undesirable to young people, with only 10% showing an interest in a career in construction. This study by L&Q Group found that 50% of the young people surveyed were interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), yet the construction industry workforce was described as “challenging and unexciting.”

Below, 3B Training explores what steps can be taken by construction companies, and the industry as a whole, to remove the stigma young people have with construction and how to attract a new, vibrant workforce.

Pique their interest

Although manual labour is still a huge aspect of construction, there’s a lot more on offer than hard hats and muddy boots.

Whether it’s drones, 3D printing or augmented reality, the construction industry has embraced innovations in tech and can offer exciting roles that simply aren’t available in other sectors. As a generation that lives and breathes technology, there are plenty of exciting opportunities for young people to get involved in.

The industry has already begun to better educate young people on some of the exciting roles in construction. However, it needs to start shouting louder about the revolutionary technology and range of career opportunities available to attract the future talent it needs.

Perks are key

A survey by Perkbox found that Generation Z value workplace perks more than any other generation. 36% claim that it can make a big difference when choosing where to work.

Looking at the top 10 perks for Gen Z, a common theme is that they are looking for ways that companies can assist them financially.

Although not every company is able to offer private healthcare, small perks like free coffees and fruit are a low-cost way of attracting and retaining young workers.

Another trend seems to be a healthy work-life balance. Though not every business is in a position to offer flexitime, making the effort to allow birthday holidays and the occasional work from home day can go a long way in attracting new talent.

Generate interest early

The key to attracting potential talent is to target young people while they’re still in school. STEM courses are increasingly more popular and account for over 40% of A-level subjects, meaning the industry has a large pool of candidates just waiting to be signed up.

The problem, however, is that young people simply aren’t currently interested in construction. As well as 90% of L&Q Group’s respondents not wishing to work in construction, 40% claimed that they were worried that they wouldn’t be good at the job.

Too many young people see the construction industry as cold building sites and mucky boots, without knowing about the exciting opportunities that STEM students could pursue.

Ryan Latham, senior marketing executive for 3B Training, said: “When most people think of jobs in the industry, their imagination stops at stereotypical muddy boots construction work.

“What people don’t realise is that construction relies heavily on design and technology, and it’s constantly evolving.

“If companies shout about some of the amazing roles in the industry, they’ll have a much better chance of engaging with young people who are looking for an exciting career path.”

Hire apprentices

Apprenticeships are an ideal way to spark young people’s interest in construction, giving them hands-on experience of what it’s like to work in the industry. Plus, the introduction of the apprenticeships levy in 2017 has made it even easier for businesses to hire apprentices.

The apprenticeship levy applies to employers in England who have an annual pay bill of over £3m and is calculated as 0.5% of the annual pay bill. All employers will receive a £15,000 annual allowance to be offset against the bill, meaning employers with an annual pay bill of £3m or less don’t need to pay the levy.

Employers who fall beneath the revenue threshold, and offer apprenticeships for 16 to 18-year-olds, will receive 100% of training costs from the government. If they offer apprenticeships for those aged 19 and over, they’ll receive 90% from the government.

Things are even better for non-levy businesses that have 50 or fewer staff, as the government will even give you a £1,000 incentive towards apprenticeships for taking on someone aged 16 to 18.

Final thoughts

Instead of waiting for a new generation of workers to sign up, it’s vital that the industry reaches out. There are so many more opportunities to offer young people than they realise, whether it’s as a site manager, architect or quantity surveyor.

By showcasing what the industry can offer, both in technological advances and workplace benefits, construction companies can attract the interest of young people early. This gives the construction industry an opportunity to build a workforce of skilled and passionate workers, who are putting their talents to good use.

 

Ryan Latham

Senior marketing executive

3B Training

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