What impact will an ageing population have on construction?

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A new report from the Chartered Institute of Building explores the impact of an older generation on the construction sector and the challenges this will bring…

In a survey of nearly 1,000 of its members, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) found the built environment plays a pivotal role in improving the lives of older people.

The report, ‘Exploring the impact of the ageing population on the workforce and built environment’, is the second report from the CIOB to study the effects of the ageing population. It indicated that despite legislative changes to improve accessibility there has been a slump in its influence on the built environment when compared to the previous report six years ago.

The skills shortage facing the construction sector is a very really issue and one that could be further compounded as 19 per cent of construction workers are set to retire in the next five to 10 years. The CIOB report said it was important to retain the knowledge gained by older workers, and called for policymakers, as well as industry leaders to see the benefit of this group. However, the institute also warned this was not a substitute for investment in training, which should still remain a priority for the sector.

The report did bring up some interesting details. For example, a total of 57 per cent of respondents said it was very important to retain ageing workers. However, many of these admitted there was a lack of measures in place to support older employees in their workplace, such as flexible hours, mid-life career reviews or retirement planning.

Additionally, the report found despite the benefits of mentoring only 63 per cent said this measure was a regular part of their workplace. Difficulties obtaining high-calibre staff was among the reasons for this.

CIOB deputy chief executive Bridget Bartlett said: “The findings from this report indicate that the impact of the ageing population and the role of the ageing workforce have slipped down the agenda.

“However, if construction is to meet the skills crisis it faces and fill the 224,000 vacancies needed by 2019, employers should look to take additional steps to overcome the skills shortages they incur by reaching out to older workers.

“There is a huge opportunity to showcase to both young and old members of the workforce that construction isn’t all hard hats and hi-vis and that off-site opportunities are aplenty. We demand technical skills as much as manual skills.

“Employers must also recognise the skills of their existing workers and put in measures such as flexible working, career reviews or even retirement planning to encourage longer working lives.

“As our own research tells us, skills shortages in construction are compounded by those entering the industry not being suitably qualified for the position.

“We should take this opportunity to use older workers to tap into their skills and knowledge and ensure they are passed onto the next generation.”

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