Training too many hairdressers and not enough bricklayers

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Councils across the country are looking to take control of training in the construction industry as skills shortages intensify.

Councils want more devolution of the training system because “for too long we’ve trained too many hairdressers and not enough bricklayers.”

Analysis by the Local Government Association has revealed a growing mismatch between the construction industry’s increasing demand for skills and a falling number of people gaining construction qualifications.

The industry’s forecasted annual recruitment need is up 54% from 2013 but there are 10,000 fewer construction qualifications being awarded by colleges, apprenticeships and universities.

There were 58% fewer completed construction apprenticeships last year than in 2009.

Over half (56%) of skilled trade construction vacancies are hard to fill, up from 46% in 2011 and almost triple the proportion of skilled hard to fill vacancies across the economy as a whole.

Councils said this increasing mismatch is leaving the construction industry stranded without the skilled employees needed to deliver on the Government’s ambitions for housebuilding.

The LGA is calling on Government to work with the construction industry, councils and education providers to develop a national ‘Skills to Build’ strategy via devolution.

It said devolving careers advice to local areas would allow councils, schools, colleges and employers to work together to help unemployed residents and young people develop the vital skills to build.

Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the LGA’s Housing Board, said:  ”For too long we’ve trained too many hairdressers and not enough bricklayers.

“Too few apprentices are getting the construction skills to build the homes and roads our local communities need and developers are struggling to recruit skilled labour to build new homes.

“Industry is clear that skills gaps are one of their greatest barriers to building. If we are to see the homes desperately needed across the country built and jobs and apprenticeships created, councils must be given a leading role.

“Skills demand will always vary significantly across the country. For example, the Northwest is desperate for bricklayers while the West Midlands have a higher demand for wood trades and interior fitters.

“Councils are best-placed to understand the needs of their residents and local economies but have no influence over skills training and employment support in their area.

“In return for increased funding and powers, councils, schools, colleges and employers could work together to reduce unemployment, close this widening construction skills gap and ramp up housebuilding.”