Survey: skills shortages still rife

13 May 2011

Nearly four out of five respondents (77%) to an on-line survey of members of the CIOB believe there is still an underlying skills shortage. Lack of skilled domestic construction personnel and reluctance of employers to invest in training and education were the most popular reasons given.

The survey, in which almost 1,000 members took part, was published this week and also threw up on-going concerns about what one respondent referred to as the failure of the apprenticeship system and the future for graduates coming into the industry in light of £9000 a year tuition fees. However, some experts are predicting this will lead to more on-the-job training with day release for academic work.

Of the respondents, 25% believed that higher tuition fees would lead to a fall in the number of students entering construction-related degree courses, with more people coming via apprenticeships and or internships (13%) and from schools and part-time courses (13%). Comments made by respondents suggested this would work to the industry’s advantage.

Michael Brown, deputy chief executive of the CIOB said: ”Day release will probably be the way it will go. At the moment training for construction managers is too focused in the university class room. We certainly need far more engagement between industry and university and hopefully fewer school leavers going to university will lead to a shift to more industry-based learning.”

Meanwhile, seven out of 10 respondents said they were managers. The 2010 CIOB survey indicated that 66% of respondents felt that construction graduates leave university without the necessary skills needed to work in the industry. Asked in this survey which specific skills were lacking, 14% said that graduates lacked the necessary technical skills needed to work in the industry, with problem solving and decision making also flagged up as problem areas.

Respondents said that graduates should do at least 12 months’ work experience during and as part of their degree. A total of 42% said they didn’t think that the standard of teaching on construction related courses at universities and colleges meets the current and future needs of the industry.

Turning to apprentices, two in five (39%) expected no change in the number of apprentices they employed, but half (49%) said their organisation did not employ them anyway and 42% thought that the demand for apprenticeships outstripped supply.

On the economic front, 40% of respondents said they expected industry workload to stay the same, while more than half (50%) expected the workforce to decrease. Over half, (56%) said up to 10% of the workforce had been made redundant this year, while 55% had had a pay freeze this year and 21% had received a pay increase.

The removal of the default retirement age would, said just over one in five (21%) produce an ageing workforce and reduce the opportunities for younger people to get promoted (20%).


I agree completely with your report.. I was an apprentice surveyor, I started my apprenticeship fifty one years ago (I am now retired) with day release plus night school. I worked in every department starting with estimating and finally in surveying. By the time I reached the HNC I knew more than the lecturers who had not kept up with the improvements in the building idustry.

Eddie Monk, 13 May 2011

I was in my 40 es when I returned to university to obtain my degree, I raise the issue with lecturers that some of the teachings where out of date and no longer utilizes within the construction industry and was advised that they where teaching what they where told to teach, though I suspect it was the tutorials and lectures they put together when they joined the university and did not want to give themselves more work updating their information.

Prior to going to university I obtained an HNC in electrical engineering by attending both day school and night school and worked in various roles and environments in rounding my education. I personally found university quite easy on the technical issues and construction methods, struggled a bit on the math’s side though I don’t believe going to university made be a better manager or really offered any additional technical information than I had already obtained through working in the industry for some 25 years previously.

I have seen graduates who had just left university bossing around experienced tradesman and failing in their duties due to not knowing how to manage people, lack of either technical knowledge or experience, they portrayed they know better as they where a graduate.

My own view which may not be accepted by others who attended university straight from school is that whiles education is necessary in various technical / design / managerial roles it does not mean you know everything and the learning stops, it is only the beginning. Individuals working within a specific industry, i.e. oil & gas, nuclear, renewable energy etc may have the same qualification though their experience within a specific industry is what matters and able to offer transferable skills

Stephen Findlay, 16 May 2011

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