Mind the gap… How do we address the growing skills shortage?
Ask housebuilders what is affecting their business at the moment and you would expect to hear the usual suspects: Brexit uncertainty, ongoing political turmoil and economic instability, which have all played a significant role in what has been a subdued period for the housing market. In amongst these issues it has been easy to take our eyes away from another concern that is becoming increasingly significant – the skills shortage affecting the construction industry.
Finding local tradespeople with specific skills, especially more traditional building expertise and knowledge, is becoming a major issue for housebuilders. There are already difficulties in recruiting key trades such as bricklayers and carpenters, and shortages in other trades, such as plumbers and plasterers. We have experienced this ourselves when it comes to recruitment; across the board there has been a noticeable reduction in numbers of people working at the mid and lower levels of the industry.
The issue is going to be magnified as Brexit negotiations continue and the working rights of EU nationals are determined. The outcome of this could have a major impact on European labourers who have worked successfully throughout UK construction sites for many years.
So, to the all-important question of how we can address this problem?
At Southcott Homes we believe it is essential to invest in our staff, training them and equipping them with the skills they need to help us meet our business goals. A perfect example of this is one of our newer recruits, Sam Pinkus, who joined us with immense enthusiasm and a broad range of interests and skills. We put him through a range of training and development programmes, which allowed him to then focus his efforts on a particular sector (you can read more about Sam’s story later in this edition).
Housebuilders, big or small, must be actively looking to take on an apprentice or inexperienced staff member and be willing to train them. This may not sound like a significant difference, but if there was a serious combined effort it would go some way to addressing the issue. Similarly, the Government can invest in the right training and skills, and major public sector procurement contracts could require a greater number of apprentices to be taken on as part of the project. Increased collaboration with schools and training colleges could help to engage and encourage apprentices and younger employees into the industry.
Lastly, the industry has already done much to improve the image of housebuilding, but we must continue to demonstrate the huge breadth of highly rewarding and interesting careers on offer within the industry, for both men and women.
This article features in the latest edition of South Focus. You can read the full edition of South Focus by using the link opposite, or signing up to receive your copy.