Skills shortages loom as workforce ages

15 July 2011

The results are more startling that anticipated and should provide a wake-up call to the sector.

The industry could be employing 50% fewer 20 year olds in the next 5-10 years according to recent research which points to significant skills shortages ahead. The research also says there will a large fall in the number of workers aged 35 to 44 by 2019, of over 115,000.  However it concludes that there will be large rises in the number of 50-60+ year olds and puts these figures at 160,000

The research, in collaboration with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), is part of the Extending Working Lives (EWL) programme and designed to encourage employers to recruit and retain older workers.

The research, carried out by Capita, aims to demonstrate clearly the impact of current age cohorts on the sector by translating UK population data projections onto the construction workforce of the next 5-10 years. It is hoped to show what it will look like for different age groups, and highlight what the impact of these changes may be on the sector in future, says the report.

It concludes that “The implications of the changes to the construction workforce are considerable and include:

§ The need to confirm the implications of this knowledge in the light of recent research from the CIOB which shows that there are currently significant skill shortages within the sector1

§ The need to introduce or improve performance management / appraisal processes in order to more effectively manage the ageing workforce – especially in the light of the removal of the default retirement age

§ A review on how to enhance the attractiveness of the sector to both younger and middle aged workers

§ The need for the sector to embrace new ways of working – in particular encouraging greater use of a variety of flexible working options including flexible retirement

§ The sector will need to be more proactive in the development of mentoring and knowledge sharing

§ A higher level of investment in retraining and up-skilling of workers - particularly those cohorts who in the past may not have always been the focus of training

§ A recognition from the sector that there is a need for investment in apprentices who may not be eligible for government funding – as other sectors have done

§ Consideration of how roles and tasks may need to be redesigned (adjusted) to reflect the possible decline in physical capacity of  large cohorts of older workers

§ Greater investment in employee well-being and healthy living to support longer working life

§ Activity to combat and overcome assumptions and prejudice regarding the capabilities of older workers

§ Forward planning from the sector on populating management cohorts in the future

§ Support for the development of age profiling techniques so that individual employers can be prepared – using ideas from this research on their own work age profile1.5 Implications of failing to address these issues

The report says that over the next few years employers within the sector will find it increasingly difficult to meet demand – especially as the economic recovery develops. It also says that the number of SMEs in the sector will shrink substantially as smaller (family run) businesses fail to attract and retain sufficient workers

Meanwhile, other new research says that the Uk Construction industry may  lack the essential management skills to help it overcome the effects of recession. In a poll of 1,450 construction employers, conducted by Industry Training Board and Sector Skills Council, CITB-ConstructionSkills, skills gaps such as understanding the implications of green issues (43%), identifying potential new business (39%) and not having sufficient IT skills (43%) were all areas picked out by industry managers and supervisors as lacking in their organisations.

In addition, a third (32%) of employers said that keeping up to date with the latest innovations, products and techniques was an important concern for their business. A further 32% also stated that their management team's ability to identify the training needs of staff was an area that needed improvement. Interestingly, the Management and Supervisory Skills (M&SS) report which was jointly published by CITB-ConstructionSkills and IFF Research, highlights how green and low carbon issues are becoming increasingly important for employers in the construction industry. Since 2007, 16% more employers see the importance of delivering sustainable practices.

On a broader level, the M&SS report, found that for almost all the skills areas investigated, at least a quarter of employers were experiencing skills gaps. Responding to these figures, CITB-ConstructionSkills has renewed its commitment to implement measures that help to deliver the right skills for economic growth locally and nationally. These initiatives include campaigns such as Cut the Carbon, which helps educate SMEs on green skills, and the Management and Supervisory Development Programme, which awards funding to industry federations to help senior staff improve their leadership abilities.

Mark Farrar, Chief Executive of CITB-ConstructionSkills, said: "The results of the M&SS research clearly show that employers in the UK are aware of the challenges currently facing them and the wider industry. The sector is still going through testing times, and management and supervisory skills will be crucial to helping businesses to prepare for the upturn from 2013.


I will repeat what I have said in previous comments. I can not and would not recommend a carreer in the construction Industry.The pay is rubbish and not regular (almost seasonal).Although the industry go on about innovative methods and ideas we are still building with stone age products,especially if it is cheaper for the construction companies.
I am a Brickie 57 years old and if they think I am going to put up with much more of their crap they can think on.As soon as any position out of construction presents itself I will be applying for it.
You would think that with the dire shortages of a skilled workforce companies would treat the ones they have better but all they seem to worry about are their shareholders.

Richard New, 17 July 2011

With advances in technology and different construction products the skills required are different and the training of the workforce needs to keep pace with the advances in technology. The use of modular 'plug and play' wiring and push fit pipework requires different skills than your traditional electrician or plumber and the industry needs to accept this.

Graeme, 21 July 2011

every other day on construction enquirer web site you hear of another company going into liquidation, when i was employed locally as a general foreman in 2008 they would be about 12000 construction jobs advertised on the total jobs web site now you would be lucky to to get half that amount. the north east has become a dead zone for construction workers, with only temporary work available at reduced rates compared to the south. just do a random search on any agency site for uk wide jobs and then change the location to the north east and you will see what i mean. it dosent help when you get contractors coming in this area to build and not being prepared to employ local labour this would save on fuel costs for one and help the local economy financially. unfortunately in a recession its a case of not what you know but who you know thats how i got the job im doing now back on the tools as a joiner, it pays the bills at the end of the day. on a lighter note is micheal gove a love child of margaret thatcher

christopher eddon, 22 July 2011

I have been a brickie for 33yrs and I certainly would not like my son to consider construction as there's absolutely no job secruity whatsover and as for skill shortages what a load of flannel, there's loads of brickies like myself who would never set foot on building sites cscs is a joke a full week of bad weather not a penny made my advice to the youth stay well clear you have been warned

keith bryden, 16 October 2014

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