The skills shortage crisis in construction and engineering


Posted 23/09/2018 by Richard Samuels


The construction and engineering sectors in the UK are facing a skills shortage of unprecedented levels. One report by Engineering UK estimates that 1.8 million people need to be trained by 2025 to fill the gap. This could have a huge effect on the country as a whole with delayed projects, falling profitability of companies and public anger at havoc on roads, bridges and railways.


So what are the factors to blame for this shortage? And more importantly what can be done about it?



Young children might already be turned off a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) before they even reach secondary school. STEM subjects have been unpopular for a while, with many schools unable to encourage anyone to take these subjects at A-Level. Several STEM related agencies and youth schemes have pledged to support the Year of Engineering in 2018.



School children in many instances are not exposed to possibilities. While some schools include work experience in the school year it isn’t compulsory, and often engineering companies don’t take on pupils because of health and safety fears. Employers have a lot on their plates at present, especially with the uncertainty of Brexit, and safeguarding for the future falls below more urgent concerns.



New apprenticeship legislation – an employer levy to boost numbers of apprentices – and the introduction of new standards for the work-based training have been implemented recently. The apprenticeship levy can be used to train and develop existing employees as well as find new staff. But public perceptions need to change towards apprenticeships. Parents often don’t value this route.



The number of young women embarking upon construction and engineering careers remains low. Many employers are introducing formal schemes to encourage diversity, and offering policies such as flexible working. The industry is still commonly viewed as the sole preserve of males and this is may be holding further growth back. This can be overcome with greater collaboration and partnership between educators and employers.


With Brexit on the horizon and the uncertainty surrounding the status of EU workers, the prospects for UK employers finding construction and engineering professionals look bleak. Brexit negotiations aside there is much the industry can do but wait and see. Either way there must be an increasing collaboration between employers and educators to facilitate and encourage a much needed growth of homegrown talent in the sector. Whereas up until recently, skilled and educated workers from the continent would happily step into the breach with realistic prospects of living in the UK, it may now be seen that the UK is no longer quite as attractive for skilled foreign nationals as it once was.



Hi Richard All your comments are valid and yes the younger generation are different and not like generations previous when I was younger the building industry was always one of the most common industry for youngsters then to become gainfully employed but definitely hard work but also rewarding. Youngsters now have a different view and I find myself telling my son of fifteen not to get into the industry although its been good for me with the ups and downs of probably any job its always been a rewarding industry if you put the work in. Also during the recession a lot of tradesmen and managers left the industry and didn't return so the has been ups and downs I was never out of work myself during the recession but do know people that didn't have employment for long enough and really struggled. Construction companies didn't used to have to engage at school level there was so many ways that after finishing school you ended up in the construction industry sometimes not by choice you were told to go out and get a job, Then you have Brexit looming and more uncertainty so the industry is not so appealing as it used to be also projects are priced so much tighter now trades have to work a lot harder than they did when I first started in the industry. I cant see the skill shortage getting any better a lot of people I know in the industry are moving overseas because of Brexit.
Posted on October 16, 2018 by Hector Galbraith
In my opinion one of the major issues we are facing is companies not willing to invest in their workforce. I have seen so many companies allow workers walk away because they will not invest in the workforce they have. I don't just mean financially. They will not invest time and make the workforce feel appreciated. Sure, training is required but boosting moral and making someone feel good about what they do is missing. Face it, everybody likes to feel part of something and likes praise for what they do. Praise your workforce, make them feel good, feel part of what they do and they will want to excel and succeed and this will help build a good, trustworthy workforce. That is my view. Regards, Gerard
Posted on October 16, 2018 by Gerard Smyth
None of the construction companies engage the schools in regards to what apprenticeship they have. Also all the major construction companies have failed as they no longer have a direct workforce & not many subcontractors take on apprentices or have apprenticeship schemes. The industry also has a stigma of being not the best to work in which also puts off the young. To overcome the skills shortage & bring back skills into the industry we need to bring back proper apprenticeship. This would then enable them to work their way up through the ranks so that they gained all the knowledge of what the job entails. Have graduates isn’t the answer as they turn up with the view that they already know everything & want to be a project manager from day one
Posted on October 16, 2018 by Adrian

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