South East needs 600,000 workers as housebuilders plug skills gap

By next more than April 600,000 more construction workers will be needed to deliver major projects in in London and the South East. Further ahead, the region needs 20% more construction workers if it is to meet the demands of the £96bn worth of projects in the pipeline over the next three years, says a new report by London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and KPMG.

The report, Skills to build, outlines the labour requirements to deliver construction projects in London and the South East up to 2017 and the gaps in training that must be filled to meet demand. According to the report, a 51% increase in training provision would be required to meet demand for skilled labour between 2014 and 2017 to plug a gap of nearly 15,000 people.

It says that the skills gap is a threat to the delivery of housebuilding targets and large infrastructure projects. It reports that 255,000 workers are needed on site to deliver the 2015 pipeline of housing and 400,000 of the workforce is expected to retire in the next 5-10 years.

At the same time housing minister Brandon Lewis has held a summit with skills minister Nick Boles and the Home Builders Federation to tackle the shortage of skills in housebuilding. Following that summit, the housebuilding industry has agreed to step up recruitment of apprentices and graduates. The industry will also specifically target ex-military personnel. Government and industry will also work together on improving the image of housebuilding with young people, and will look at apprenticeship and training standards.

The Skills to build report includes the following recommendations to help fill the skills gap:

  • Infrastructure UK should drive a commitment to embed skills and employment requirements in public procurement contracts, aimed at both tier one contractors and suppliers.
  • Government should ensure schools provide obligatory, quality and unbiased careers advice from year 7, and submit annual careers reports evaluating the range of careers and training options covered.
  • Local authorities should maintain and share a pipeline of future projects, with skills responsibility and funding devolved to the most appropriate level of functional economic activity, to enable the commissioning of demand-led training provision.
  • The Skills Funding Agency should convene industry bodies and representatives to redesign training and apprenticeship frameworks to reflect modern methods of construction, and disseminate them for adoption by training providers.

Richard Threlfall, KPMG UK head of infrastructure, building and construction said: “For the first time in many generations, the UK has a strong pipeline of construction and infrastructure projects to reinvigorate the economy and drive our future competitiveness. But delivery of that pipeline is now in jeopardy – not for lack of political will or funding – but for lack of a sufficiently large and trained workforce”.

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