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Hays Construction survey suggests industry employers taking no action on skills

A survey by Hays Construction has revealed that 20 per cent of construction employers have taken no immediate action to tackle the skills shortage within the existing workforce, despite 60 per cent expecting shortages to have an impact on their business in the year ahead.

Hays reported a mixed response when asking around 800 of its clients in the UK, which are all construction industry employers, what steps they had taken to address immediate skills shortages within their workforces.

Recruiting apprentices came top of the list, with 41 per cent saying they had done this.

Thirty-two per cent had increased training budgets, 29 per cent had allowed employees study leave for external training and 22 per cent had transferred existing employees into areas where shortages existed.

“Given the united voice with which the industry is talking about this issue, it’s surprising to find that a considerable number of employers have taken no action to address short or long-term skill shortages,” Hays Construction managing director Andrew Bredin said.

“While many employers are investing in training their existing staff, transferring skills within their organisation or widening their recruitment approach, a fifth claimed to have taken no action on immediate skill shortages.”

On long-term measures to address skills, 50 per cent of respondents said they had not taken any of the specified actions to tackle the problem.

“Despite agreement on the importance of promoting the industry from school age, only half of employers had visited schools or universities, sponsored students, worked with education provides on tailored training or supported industry bodies in their work to raise the profile of construction careers,” Mr Bredin said.

Twenty-one per cent said they had visited schools to promote careers in construction, 20 per cent worked with education providers to develop training programmes and 20 per cent supported industry trade bodies to raise the profile of construction careers.

A further 19 per cent sponsored construction courses, while 16 per cent visited universities to raise awareness of careers in construction.

Half of those surveyed – 50 per cent – said they did none of these.

“To find out what more could be done, we also asked employers for their views on the one thing that would help the construction industry better tackle skill shortages,” Mr Bredin said.

“The response was overwhelming in the call for formal, structured apprenticeships that provide training aligned with the needs of business and offer apprentices a clear career pathway.

“Many employers went on to call for guaranteed fixed-term jobs at the end of an apprenticeship, and for more financial incentives for employers to take on apprenticeships.

“The second prevailing call was for more action to promote construction as an attractive, professional industry with good career prospects and an environment that appeals to young people, and particularly women.”

The survey was carried out in February and March 2014.

Survey results

Has your organisation done any of the following to address immediate skill shortages within your existing workforce?

32% had increased training budgets
22% had transferred existing staff into skill shortage areas
29% allowed employees study leave for external training 
17% encouraged job sharing or shadowing to share knowledge within the organisation  
6% recruited skilled migrant workers  
41% recruited apprentices  
16% recruited from other industries or professions  
18% increased marketing activity to raise profile with prospective candidates  
20% did none of the above  

Has your organisation done any of the following to address long-term skill shortages in the construction industry?

21% visited schools to promote careers in construction   
19% sponsored students to study construction courses  
16% visited universities to raise awareness of careers in construction  
20% worked with education providers to develop training programmes  
20% supported industry bodies to raise the profile of construction careers   

50% did none of the above   

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