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skills shortage

Skills crunch keeping contractors awake at night

Rising costs and a shortage of skilled people are giving building services contractors sleepless nights, according to a new business survey. Members of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) said they were facing “major challenges” due to a combination of rising labour and material costs, growing lead times, shortage of

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UK Sector Vacancies Outweigh Student Enrolments

A report by Open University showed that the UK skills gap is a major and well-publicised crisis that costs the country more than £2 billion a year. Further findings have stated 97% of organisations working in STEM and 96% of financial organisations have had difficulty hiring skilled employees over the

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Utilities Firms Commit to Staff Training Programme

Companies in the utilities sector have made a commitment to a major programme of staff training in an attempt to fight the skills shortage. Contractors and clients throughout the industry have signed the Skills Accord for Energy & Utilities, a voluntary, cross-industry partnership intended to address the skills gaps. With

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Build UK Survey Shows Skills Shortage Worse Since Brexit

A survey of Build UK members has found that the shortage of skilled labour has become more severe since Brexit, despite the EU referendum outcome not having an immediate slowdown in work for UK contractors overall. The survey shows that in the three months following the referendum, labour costs are

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Latest Issue

BDC 317 : Jun 2024

skills shortage

CONSTRUCTION’S ‘DIRTY’ IMAGE IS KEY BARRIER TO SOLVING SKILLS SHORTAGE, SAYS SURVEY

A new survey by UK Construction Week Birmingham has revealed that those who work in the industry believe better school careers advice and improving the sector’s ‘dirty’ image are key steps to resolving the current skills gap in construction. With just two weeks before the three-day show returns to the NEC on October 4th, the survey polled over 1,100 people across the sector, including architects, engineers, housebuilders, installers, joiners, contractors and consultants. It found over a quarter (26%) of respondents felt the solution to fixing the skills gap was ‘better career advice at school/college to paint a more attractive picture of construction to young people’, while 24% said the answer was ‘a long-term strategy to attract and retain talent, not just a short fix’. Key barriers to young people pursuing a career in construction were seen as the industry being perceived as ‘dirty job’ (23%), lack of careers advice (19%), and the sector being seen as male-dominated (15%). Other survey results included: The main barriers to people’s own advancement in construction was due to lack of training support from their employer (18%); poor careers advice (18%); and lack of funding (17%) 57% of respondents thought the skills gap had either worsened or stayed the same in the last two years, with ‘the great resignation’ (19%); uncertainty (17%); and long lead times and the rise of materials and product costs (17%) being the principal causes Respondents said the best things about working in construction are the tangible results (25%); learning new skills (20%); and the fact that no two days are the same (15%) When asked what the construction industry workforce will look like in 2050, the most popular responses included ‘a more diverse/female workforce’; ‘more use of AI’; ‘increase in mechanisation/robotics’; and ‘it will be more lucrative and attractive to graduates’ 84% of respondents said flexible/hybrid working was now an option in their role, with the key reasons for the 16% who don’t have that flexibility being ‘not practical – we need to be on site at all times’ (52%); ‘the directors do not like it’ (18%) and ‘it’s never been discussed’ (16%) Nathan Garnett, UKCW Birmingham’s event director said: “Our survey is a clarion call to both the government and construction sector, and outlines what we need to change if we are to tackle the skills crisis we currently face. We plan to use our event in just two weeks’ time to set out some of the solutions that our survey points to so we can create real culture change.  “Our survey not only highlights the challenge, but it also illustrates the variety and truly rewarding nature of being part of the built environment – a message we will get across loud and clear.” Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “As we continue to work hard to supercharge our region’s economic recovery, the construction sector will play a key role. Many of our young people – and indeed local job seekers of all ages – have recognised that joining this industry can offer an exciting, practical and well paid career path for those willing to grasp the opportunity.  “However, it’s clear from the survey that we have more work to do to change perceptions and highlight the positive side of this booming sector which will shape the West Midlands for many years to come. I hope to play my part in fostering interest in construction – working together with the industry and other bodies like CITB – not only to connect local residents with great jobs but also to alleviate the skills shortage in the sector which is essential if we are to reach our full potential.” Tim Balcon, Chief Executive, CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) said: “We welcome this insight, which highlights the challenge that is being faced to attract and retain talent and to address the skills gap. We need to work collaboratively across industry to strengthen the entire talent pipeline and increase the number of people joining and staying in construction. “By investing over £233m across the sector this year, we’re doing all that we can to facilitate key routes into industry such as apprenticeship and employer grants, occupational traineeships, and onsite experience hubs. In short, we’re working hard to support the construction industry to address the gap highlighted in this report so that we can build a skilled, competent and inclusive workforce both for now and in the future.” This year UKCW Birmingham is expecting around 25,000 attendees, will officially be opened by Channel 4 presenter George Clarke and features guest speaker Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands. Celebrating culture change in the construction industry with an exciting programme of debate and discussion from top speakers, the show will also shine a spotlight on over 6,000 products from more than 300 exciting exhibitors. Visitors will also be able to find sections dedicated to Net Zero, Building Materials, Digitalisation, Infrastructure, Surface & Materials, Offsite Construction, and Skills & Careers. Register for free here, UKCW Birmingham registrations and if you are part of an industry group or community and you’d like to host your own networking event please get in touch via info@ukconstructionweek.com.  Follow on social media @uk_cw #UKCW2022

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Skills crunch keeping contractors awake at night

Rising costs and a shortage of skilled people are giving building services contractors sleepless nights, according to a new business survey. Members of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) said they were facing “major challenges” due to a combination of rising labour and material costs, growing lead times, shortage of equipment and delivery delays. Many respondents said they expected the situation to get worse before it gets better, although 80% said they expected to see growing or stable turnover levels through to the end of the year. There is a particular shortage of m&e engineers, pipe fitters, plumbers, and service technicians, according to BESA members responding to the quarterly survey, which is carried out in partnership with the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA), the Scottish Electrical Trade Body (SELECT) and the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employer’s Federation (SNIPEF). The survey, which covered the three months from April to June and asked business owners to look ahead at their prospects for the rest of the year, found that small firms are facing particular challenges. Recruiting 41% reported problems recruiting the staff they needed to keep projects going. 66% expected the situation to deteriorate during the current quarter and 13% expected the situation to remain the same. However, 32% of survey respondents did say they expected to see some improvement before the end of the year. One fallout from the current crisis is that many businesses will employ fewer direct staff, agency workers and apprentices over the next six months despite the urgent need to increase the flow of skilled people into the industry. “That is probably the most worrying message from the survey,” said BESA’s director of legal and commercial Debbie Petford. “We already have a serious skills shortage across construction and related sectors like building engineering, but it seems some employers are reacting by pulling in their recruitment horns. “This will only serve to build up longer term shortages. Without a large enough and suitably skilled workforce we will not be able to deliver on the government’s decarbonisation plans or keep the economic recovery on track. This is a global issue and I hope it will be high on the agenda at next month’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow,” she added. www.theBESA.com

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UK Sector Vacancies Outweigh Student Enrolments

A report by Open University showed that the UK skills gap is a major and well-publicised crisis that costs the country more than £2 billion a year. Further findings have stated 97% of organisations working in STEM and 96% of financial organisations have had difficulty hiring skilled employees over the last 12 months. The research team at Bidwells has decided to find out more and compared industry vacancies against undergraduate enrolments in 2017 to uncover which areas have the most significant shortages. They found that a combination of valuable economic skills and high-level technical education is critical to meet the UK’s skills needs, yet despite growing student enrolment in fields like computer science and tech, new jobs in these high-growth sectors still outweigh the number of skilled workers to fill them. The analysis of the university enrolments demonstrates the mismatch between market demand for skills and the future supply of talent is particularly acute in knowledge-based industries. This suggests current vacancies in professional and scientific tech positions are three times higher than the total number of university enrolments in these subjects. Science and tech jobs are predicted to grow twice as fast as other occupations, with 142,000 new jobs in science, research, engineering and tech anticipated by 2023. Looking further ahead, The London Datastore projects the information and communication sector will be the second highest growing sector over the coming decade in the UK, with an estimated 45% increase in employment growth by 2050. According to the Industrial Strategy, these sectors are the most significant to the UK’s economic future, but the shortages of suitably qualified, high-skilled labour will present a brake on the UK economy unless addressed. Will Heighman, Lead Partner for Science and Technology at Bidwells, suggested the solution would be investing in local and foreign talent. “The UK urgently needs to put in place measures to both deliver homegrown talent for the future as well as ease the process for attracting the best in class globally,” he concluded.

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Utilities Firms Commit to Staff Training Programme

Companies in the utilities sector have made a commitment to a major programme of staff training in an attempt to fight the skills shortage. Contractors and clients throughout the industry have signed the Skills Accord for Energy & Utilities, a voluntary, cross-industry partnership intended to address the skills gaps. With a fifth of the sector’s skilled workers approaching retirement age, 36% of vacancies are proving difficut to fill, while 14% of all employers reporting skills gaps within their existing workforces, the Skills Accord is the sector’s solution to drive industry training. The agreement, administered by Energy & Utility (EU) Skills, encourages its signatories to put a greater proportion of their employees through formal structured development, either in specific skills that the sector currently requires or for which there is a demonstrable future requirement. The scheme’s lead partners SSE, National Grid and Amey, along with Thames Water and UK Power Networks. The Skills Accord also has 22 other signatories: ABB, Amec Foster Wheeler, Balfour Beatty, Clancy Group, Complete Asset Life Mgt, Costain, GE Power, IWJS, Kier Utilities, Laing O’Rourke, Lanes Group, McNicholas, Morgan Sindall, Morrison Utility Services, Murphy, NWH Treatment, Peter Duffy, RJ McLeod, Sapphire Utility Solutions, Siemens, Skanska and T&K Gallagher. The signatories have agreed to five pledges: a formal programme of learning; encourage suppliers to sign up; embed the Accord’s principles into new tenders and contracts; a commitment to continuous improvement; and monitor and publish company success rate, as overseen by an external auditor. Chair of the Energy & Utility Skills Group, Jan Ward, commented: “This Skills Accord is one of the key priorities of the new sector partnership now underway, and I applaud these companies for testing the art of the possible and by collaborating with each other to recruit and train skilled workers, increase mobility and efficiency, widen the available talent pool and consequently bring about strategic workforce renewal.”

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Build UK Survey Shows Skills Shortage Worse Since Brexit

A survey of Build UK members has found that the shortage of skilled labour has become more severe since Brexit, despite the EU referendum outcome not having an immediate slowdown in work for UK contractors overall. The survey shows that in the three months following the referendum, labour costs are on the rise and there has been a significant increase in the number of contractors unable to bid for jobs because they cannot afford the workforce. At the end of June, the UK voted in favour of leaving the European Union in a referendum and while it will be at least two years before the UK actually leaves the EU, there is still uncertainty about what the impact will be in the end. Trade deals will need to be put in place that will determine the extent the UK will continue to support the free movement of people and goods. Build UK’s state of trade survey for Q3 of 2016, covering the months straight after the referendum (July to September) show that while members of Build UK saw their workloads increase immediately after the vote, there were more and more difficulties in recruiting skilled operatives. However, the survey does not shed any light on whether the result of the referendum may have in any way contributed to the recruitment problems recently experienced by the construction industry. An unrelated report from brokers Willis Towers Watson on the implications of Brexit for the UK construction industry states that the industry is currently relying on foreign labour from within the EU, with migrant workers currently filling around 12% of the 2.9 million UK construction jobs. The Build UK survey does show that labour shortages stopped a quarter of contractors from bidding for work during the third quarter of this year, a number that has increased from 16% in Q2.

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