Daryl Teague: We must act to avoid construction skills drain

Germany's scheme to train youngsters shows different mindset
Germany's scheme to train youngsters shows different mindset
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The ripples of Brexit are far reaching, especially when it comes to the impact on the economy and labour ­market.

It extends to every ­industry, from the medical profession to skilled manual labour, with the UK standing to lose 8 per cent of its construction workforce, according to the Royal Institution of Surveyors.

Indeed, it warned that 176,500 workers could be lost as a result of the EU ­referendum, jeopardising a construction pipeline worth more than £500 billion.

So how do we deal with the possibility of both current and future labour shortages, exasperated by Brexit? In my opinion it needs to be tackled at industry and UK-wide level.

The construction industry continues to shrink due to the ageing population and lack of new entrants. If we add the less European workers, then we could have a serious ­problem to meet demand.

Earlier this year, planning consultancy Arcadis revealed that the UK could need more than 400,000 workers every year for the next five years to meet potential building and infrastructure projects.

It’s crucial that industry plans to open new routes to apprentices, safeguarding the future of the industry, the UK’s infrastructure and housing. As more school leavers go to university, now is the time to try and redirect the flow back into modern apprenticeships.

In Germany, there is an extremely successful dual training vocational system, where 60 per cent of school leavers enter workplace and train on the job. This approach feeds into the highly productive workforce which Germany is able to obtain.

There is definitely a ­cultural belief in Germany when it comes to a career in the construction industry and national pride that has been ingrained over many years. I believe the educational ­system in Scotland is geared to ­pushing people towards ­higher education and not the workplace. As we exit the EU, mindsets need to change. We will be going it alone and we need to have the right skills to succeed.

The construction industry and apprenticeships need to become a viable choice for a wider range of people. This can only help to alleviate skills shortages and create a professional and productive construction sector in Scotland.

Skills Development Scotland are doing some great work in this area with the Scottish Government pledging to have 30,000 Modern Apprenticeships per year by 2020. They are currently falling short of this. ­However, I believe if the government aligns with the majority of the country and creates a position of stability and focus ­during these uncertain times, we can tackle the problem.

The full effects of Brexit are not known. Only time will tell. I believe in ­never being unprepared and having a plan to manage what can happen in the next few years can only be a good thing.

If we set the right plans for training and apprenticeships today it can only help in ­keeping pace with our expanding construction industry.

Daryl Teague is director of Edinburgh-based Glencairn Properties.