Public Sector Property

17.08.15

Construction skills shortage could threaten housing goals

Councils are calling for more devolved powers to local education providers and construction employers in the face of a “growing mismatch” between the number of qualified housebuilders and the industry’s increasing demand for these skills.

An analysis by the LGA showed that the government will not be able to fulfil its housebuilding ambitions if the construction industry continues to be “stranded” without the skilled workers required to drive the industry forward.

Cllr Peter Box, chair of the LGA’s housing board, said: “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 skilled labour to build new homes.

“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.”

Their analysis showed that, while the construction industry’s forecasted recruitment need grew by 54% since 2013, 58% less people completed construction apprenticeships last year compared to 2009. There are also 10,000 fewer construction qualifications being awarded by colleges, apprenticeships and universities.

Local authorities believe that councils, schools and employers need to have localised control over careers advice and post-16 and adult skills budgets in order to develop a national ‘skills to build’ strategy to solve the shortage issue.

Box added: “Skills demand will always vary significantly across the country. For example, the northwest is desperate for bricklayers while west midlands have a higher demand for wood trades and interior fitters.

“Councils are best-placed to understand the needs of their residents and local economies but have no influence over skills training and employment support in their area.

“In return for increasing funding and powers, councils, schools, colleges and employers could work together to reduce unemployment, close this widening construction skills gap and ramp up housebuilding.”

Previous research by the LGA had found that between 16 and 25% of forecast economic growth until 2022 could be lost if employers are unable to recruit the skilled workforce they need.

This could come to include up to £24bn of output from the construction sector.

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