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UK construction industry facing severe skills shortage despite economic downturn

Many believe that the loss of skills will severely hamper the recovery of the industry, a survey by the Chartered Institute of Building shows.

Some 77% of respondents to the annual survey said that they believe there is a skills shortage in construction and 78% of those said will be a problem when the economy improves.

Not enough companies are employing apprentices with only 37% saying that they are doing so. Over three quarters, some 76%, said that apprenticeships should be mandatory on public projects. But economic problems are forcing many companies to recruit fewer graduates and to cut the number of apprenticeships.

'Construction has been notoriously bad at attracting students and other new entrants. This has exasperated the industry's long-term skills development. There is no denying the importance of graduate and apprentice recruitment as these employees represent the future of the industry,' said Michael Brown CIOB Deputy Chief Executive.

'There is a danger that once demand rises and recruitment increases there will be a mass of previously skilled workers who choose not to return to the industry having opted for other careers. The industry has never fully recovered from the recession in the 90's, particularly at the management and senior management level,' added Brown.

'We must learn from those lessons and find ways to put in place the vital skills needed for recovery and beyond,' he continued.

Redundancy is also severely affecting the industry 54% of respondents saying that their company has had to make redundancies, and 14% expect redundancies to occur.

Few expect improvements in 2009. Some 67% expect to see a decline in construction demand in 2009/10.