Addressing the Dangerous Construction Skills Gap

By Samuel Okoronkwo

Would you employ an electrical engineer to be the head chef at a prestigious restaurant? What about placing a head chef in front of a faulty electrical system? Of course, you would never do either of these things for the risk of either food poisoning or serious electrical fault. Yet, this is the kind of dangerous future the construction industry could potentially be heading toward if the skills gap issue is not addressed correctly.

Having unqualified workers in the wrong roles is only one of the disastrous outcomes hovering in the future of construction. UK construction has long been a crucial driving factor in economic growth and development. The skills gap puts this under threat.

According to the UK Trade Skills Index 2023, the construction industry needs over 900,000 recruits within the next decade to reverse the damage already happening and prevent more. Despite the limited number of skilled persons available, the demand for construction services is increasing, turning this into a critical issue.

A main contributing factor that has been brought up time and again in recent discussions is the lack of completed construction apprenticeships. While there was a spike in apprenticeships being started, many were abandoned and it’s predicted that this trend is set to continue. Approximately £1.3 billion was put into these unfinished apprenticeships which could have been used to address the skills gap.

However, another issue reaches the other end of this spectrum. Due to the increase in unfinished apprenticeships, a limited number of new skill is entering the industry. Therefore the construction industry is predominately made up of an ageing workforce.

Progression in the construction industry should see workers becoming overseers who guide the new generation. Instead, ageing workers need to work twice as hard to cover the gaps present and ensure projects reach completion.

The threat of unfinished projects is only one part of a growing problem. When you break it down into specific areas of construction there is also significant risk to workers.

Fire safety in particular is a hot issue. The lack of competent fire safety professionals is leading to a greater risk of fire threat during and after project completion. As time goes on, there is also the risk that even those who are deemed competent will be overloaded and become burnt out.

The longer these skills gaps go on, the longer it is going to take for the construction industry to catch up. Usually, I like to use these newsletters to offer solutions or insights that can help the construction industry progress. However, this time, I would like to start a conversation about this issue.

What must be done for the skills gap to be closed in construction?

Remember, in the event of a construction dispute, Mercantile Barristers will be happy to assist. Similarly, if there is anything from this article you would like to discuss, do not hesitate to message me directly.

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