Construction skills shortage ‘at breaking point’

Scape Group said there was a shortage of skilled workers such as bricklayers. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Scape Group said there was a shortage of skilled workers such as bricklayers. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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The skills shortage in construction is “at breaking point”, but simple steps such as introducing apprenticeships could help improve the situation, new research has found.

Public sector-owned Scape Group said it had undertaken the most comprehensive survey of the UK construction supply chain, involving more than 150 contractors, subcontractors and senior managers at public-sector organisations.

The report found that 85 per cent of the public sector believes the shortage is hitting the quality of construction projects, with 58 per cent of contractors and suppliers saying it damages the quality of their workmanship.

Additionally, more than a third of public-sector managers said the skills shortage is “bad” or “severe” in their area, while one in ten contractors and suppliers see the shortage critically affecting budgets.

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Scape, which is based in Nottingham but has premises in Rutherglen, said: “With bricklayers in the UK earning as much as £1,000 per week due to the shortage of skilled workers, it is clear to see the crisis now risks destabilising the industry as a whole.” Mark Robinson, Scape group chief executive, said the skills shortage is “not only severely impacting the quality of what we are building but also our ability to build it on budget.

“While there is a mountain to climb to overcome this challenge, basic recommendations can be put in place to ease the burden, for example, 19 per cent of contractors and subcontractors still do not have an apprenticeship scheme.”

As well as addressing the skills shortage, the firm’s other recommendations include greater forward visibility of project pipelines to support SMEs, as well as improved collaboration between the public sector and supply chain.

Robinson added: “Now more than ever we need to work more closely together in order to deliver for both the public sector and SMEs.

“We can only achieve sustainable levels of efficiency through a perpetual focus upon true collaboration, partnership and greater engagement with all stakeholders.”

Dean Banks, managing director of construction services at Balfour Beatty, Scape’s partner on the National Infrastructure and Civil Engineering Framework, said: “Scape’s research reveals a widespread focus on sustainable construction; that means supporting local businesses, inspiring a diverse group of talented individuals into the sector and ensuring the future demand for skilled labour is met.”

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