Construction on the up, but where are the workers?

Construction activity is forecast to grow across the UK over the next five years, creating more than 200,000 jobs. But the positive forward-look poses questions over where the future workforce is coming from?

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Construction Skills Network’s Blueprint for construction 2015-2019 forecasts a resurgence of growth in the regions, which is set to expand the sector by nearly 3% year-on-year. CITB’s research means the industry will need to recruit nearly 50,000 workers a year, up more than 8,000 a year on its 2014 forecast. These numbers will include more than 3,000 more bricklayers a year, more than 4,000 more wood trades and interior fit-out personnel and more than 3,500 painters and decorators.

The annual forecast also finds:

  • The UK’s private housing sector is set to continue growing at a rate of 4.6% over the forecast period to 2019, with the commercial sector set to grow at the same rate
  • A resurgence of growth and employment in Northern England has the potential to create an economic power base in the region, with the North West set to grow by 2.5%, the North East by 2.3%, and Yorkshire and Humber by 2.3% annually, over the forecast period
  • The biggest regional growth will be seen in Wales, which is predicted to grow by almost 6% year-on-year and create up to 5,320 jobs in the next five years
  • Scotland is expected to see a drop in growth from 2% to 1.1% over the next five years, as a result of completed infrastructure projects associated with the re-development of the M8 and the Commonwealth Games, but infrastructure investment remains at historic levels.

Steve Radley, CITB’s director of policy and strategic planning, said: “Employers will need to pull every lever available to them to meet the skills challenge they face but government can play a vital role in giving them the confidence to invest in training for the long-term.”

Alasdair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, said: “Contractors are already ramping up activity to bring apprentices and graduates into the sector, creating new careers in offices and sites across the country.

“But we must match this by attracting back those who may have left the industry during the downturn.”

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