LGA warns on construction skills shortage

17 Aug 15

A lack of construction skills could undermine the government’s pledge to build 275,000 affordable homes by 2020, councils have warned today.

The Local Government Association said that there is “a growing mismatch” between the construction industry’s increasing demand for skills and a falling number of people gaining construction qualifications.

While the construction industry’s forecast annual recruitment need is up 54% from 2013, there are 10,000 fewer construction qualifications being awarded by colleges, apprenticeships and universities, today’s analysis found.

As a result, over half (56%) of vacancies in the sector are judged hard to fill, according to a poll of employers by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

To ensure that skills shortages do not impact on the government’s housebuilding ambitions, the LGA called for a new national ‘Skills to Build’ strategy to be developed between government, the construction industry, councils and education providers. This could then be delivered locally by councils as part of the government’s devolution plans, Peter Box, chair of the LGA’s housing board, stated.

“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 the skilled labour to build new homes,” he said.

“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.”

Although councils were best-placed to understand the needs of their residents, local businesses and economies, they currently have no influence over skills training and employment support in their area, he added.

“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.”