Shortage of skilled workers could halt building boom

A poll has found a shortage of skilled workers could prevent building firms from making the most of the booming housing sector, as the industry steps up efforts to attract and train a new generation of construction staff.

According to the Lloyds Banking Group survey of more than 100 construction companies, around a third (35%) of said they had struggled to find candidates to fill job vacancies, with electricians, site managers and architects among the most in-demand workers.

Industry-wide measures are already being taken to wipe out the skills shortage, including boosting the number of apprenticeship opportunities available for people to earn while learning on the job.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has also recently launched the Go Construct website, a construction careers information portal designed to attract fresh talent into the sector.

Steve Radley, director of policy at the CITB, said: “Many home-builders tell us that, with growth accelerating, skills are their biggest challenge.

“We are working closely with the industry to boost apprentice numbers, to attract more people into the industry through a new marketing campaign and web portal, and to direct funding to support their training.

“We also have to make sure that training providers understand home-builders’ skill needs. There are no quick fixes but by working together on all these fronts, this challenge can be met.”

The survey also revealed, 87% said they plan to take on new workers over the coming year, with some 100,000 vacancies set to become available.

But 24% of house-builders revealed that skills shortages are the biggest challenge they face, with bricklayers, carpenters, plumbers and kitchen fitters also numbering among the sought-after staff.

And just under a third (31%) of companies surveyed said they plan to increase spending on apprenticeships in a bid to tackle the skills problem.

The findings came as housing minister Brandon Lewis unveiled government targets to build more than one million new homes over the next five years.

Less than 460,000 homes were constructed between 2011 and 2014, figures from the National Housing Federation show, despite forecasts that 974,000 houses were needed.

Speaking to the BBC’s Inside Out, Mr Lewis said: “By the end of this Parliament, success I think would mean that we have seen a build in total of something like a million homes.”