Multi-million pound fund announced to address shortages in UK building sector
A multi-million pound fund to help tackle the construction skills shortage has been launched by the British Government but it may be too little too late as new figures reveal the number of foreign workers in the industry.
Skills Minister Anne Milton said that 158,000 new construction jobs are set to be created over the next five years as she unveiled a £22 million Construction Skills Fund to help people train on real building sites.
Over 18 months the fund will support 20 onsite training hubs, creating work experience and placements for people working to join the industry and entry pathways for those currently unemployed.
But at the same time new official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal that around 10% of workers in the UK construction industry are non-UK citizens of which 7% are from the European Union.
The construction industry is warning that these workers may not be available after Brexit in March 2019, creating even worse shortages than already exist. And the situation is even worse in London with ONS data showing that 28% of construction workers are EU nationals.
According to Manny Aparicio, national head of project management at property consultancy and surveyors Naismiths, it is crunch time for the UK construction industry which is facing a severe hole in terms of recruitment.
‘The London construction sector is particularly exposed to potential fallout from Brexit, as more than a third of its workers are from EU and non-EU countries. If Brexit does make it harder for overseas workers to take up jobs in construction, due to increased red tape and potential costs, the construction industry will suffer,’ he said.
He also explained that there is an ageing workforce of UK construction workers that is simply not being replenished at the required rate. ‘The youngest blood in UK construction is currently the non-UK nationals but if Brexit makes the UK a less attractive place to work then that demographic could disappear at the same time as the older UK hands retire. It’s a double whammy,’ he added.
‘The Government has committed to building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s and we want to make sure that we are investing in the UK skills base to deliver this. Onsite training will be hugely beneficial for employers and trainees, as it will help bridge the gap between training and working in the industry, meaning trainees are site ready sooner,’ said Milton.
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) welcomed the funding and urged employers, housing associations and other interested bodies such as LEPs and local authorities to submit expressions of interest.
‘The Construction Skills Fund is a milestone scheme for the sector and provides a significant investment in skills and training. It will help attract new talent and bridge the gap between training and working in the industry,’ said Steve Radley, CITB policy director.
‘Having training on or near to major projects will reveal what an exciting sector this can be, while also putting new talent in the shop window. We want all interested organisations to submit Expressions of Interest that are innovative, collaborative and with training at their heart. We will support applicants through the process and provide expert guidance to apply to the fund,’ he added.