2019 is shaping up to be quite the year for UK construction.
For starters, we will see the UK’s departure from the EU. As yet, we don’t know whether this will be a managed process or a no-deal crash that fundamentally shakes the economy.
But we will also see a UK government spending review that could unlock budgets for major programmes of investment across infrastructure, health, education and other areas of public sector construction.
The two are linked.
We may see a significant upswing in workload for the sector coming hot on the heels of the door being closed on EU migration, a major contributor to the UK construction workforce.
Keep in mind this is an industry that already faced a skills crisis even before any reduced influx from the continent.
The CITB Construction Skills Network indicated in its last report that the sector would need to recruit 31,600 new workers every year up to 2022 just to keep pace with demand.
If we are to meet this challenge, it is essential that we have the right processes in place to recruit the future workforce.
This will involve ensuring that our routes for new entrants to join the sector are streamlined, making getting a job in the sector as easy as possible. We also need to make sure that we have the training providers that can deliver the skills needed for this future.
“While our supporting organisations will be speaking to their members, we are also opening up our research to the rest of the industry”
And yes, we will probably continue to need a level of managed migration from Europe and further afield, to pick up where some pinch-point skills are not available in the UK.
But all of the above will be done most effectively if informed by proper research to understand specifically what skills and occupations are in greatest demand.
If we have a rich picture of this future need, we can start to put in place strategies at a cross-industry level to meet it, rather than cobbling together small initiatives within individual companies or sectors.
Over to you
That is why nine of the industry’s leading trade bodies have come together to develop this research. Over the next month we will be speaking to companies throughout the construction supply chain to ask where they see their recruitment challenges.
And we want your views too; while our supporting organisations will be speaking to their members, we are also opening up our research to the rest of the industry.
Through a dedicated survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/shortoccupations, we are asking that you tell us what you think.
Because this is a challenge for the whole industry, and one that we will best solve by working together.
We will be looking to publish the results of the research in the new year, and use it as the basis of collaborative action to make sure that 2019 marks the beginning of a sector-wide approach to solving the skills crisis.
Alasdair Reisner is chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association