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CITB predicts 11% decline in construction workforce by 2021

24 September 2020

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) is anticipating an 11% decline in the size of the construction workforce by 2021, as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, with another four years until it reaches the size it was in 2019.

The figures, from the CITB’s preliminary Construction Skills Network forecasts, released as part of its Strategic Plan for 2021-25, show that there were 2.7m people working in construction in 2019. That number is expected to fall to 2.4m by next year, before rising again to 2.7m by 2025.

However, the CITB warned that the outlook was uncertain and that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and self-employed Income Protection Scheme meant that it was unclear how many people were still working in the sector.

As part of its Strategic Plan, the CITB set out how it planned to spend a total of £793m on training over 2021-25, working with employers, governments, training and education partners, and other industry bodies to train the workers the sector requires.

It said it expected companies to face increased debt and reduced and uncertain income, along with greater restrictions, meaning that output and employment would take longer than usual to return to pre-recession levels.

Meanwhile, digital technology and the increasing impact of manufacturing on construction would “continually alter” the skills needed, it predicted.

In the short term, the CITB expects employers to lack the confidence to make significant skills investments such as in apprenticeships or upskilling their workforces.

Source: CITB Strategic Plan 2021-25

Among the ways in which the levy will be invested across Britain are: 

  • 28,000 taster experiences of construction and in Go Construct to help potential new entrants understand the opportunities in construction and how to access them
  • Onsite experience for 19,000 people to prepare them to start work in construction through onsite hubs   
  • The creation of new pathway between further education and employment available to 8,000 learners, including 1,600 apprenticeship starts as well as more learners starting jobs in construction
  • A planned increase in the share of apprentices completing their programmes from 60% to 70% through allocating £110m to support learners and employers on top of grant support 
  • Help for employers to invest in training to rebuild after the pandemic but increasingly to modernise and raise productivity through the Grants Scheme and other funding. This will see over £500m (77% of levy) of funding to employers 
  • Support employers to modernise by identifying the key competencies required, including those that support digitalisation.                             

Sarah Beale, CITB chief executive, said: “The recovery presents construction with big challenges but also major opportunities to do things differently and bring a wider range of new workers into the industry.   

“Our strategic plan will support employers to realise these opportunities by helping fix the system that brings people into work and supporting them to do the training they need. 

“We will focus on a small number of areas such as providing new entrants with information and experiences, creating a new pathway from further education into apprenticeships and a job, and boosting the numbers of apprentices completing their programmes. 

“We will also help employers to train by addressing gaps in provision, making training accessible and targeting funding where it’s needed, including through the Grants Scheme. 

“Over time, a greater share of this will support employers to modernise and raise productivity.”