New research has revealed the extent of the current skills shortage in the UK building industry – with 66 per cent of small construction firms admitting they have been forced to turn down new business due to this lack of resource.
Almost half have been forced to outsource work to third parties rather than leave work unfinished. The survey was conducted by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), who reached out to its membership of 8,500 small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms.
The main reason cited for this widespread shortage is the difficulty in finding apprentices. Respondents claimed the lack of apprenticeships is the primary reason they believed potential candidates have been held back from joining the industry, followed by pressure from parents to stay in full-time education. Experts have estimated the industry needs around 35,000 new apprentices just to cope with demand, however in 2013, only around 7,000 apprentices completed their training.For the 16-24 age group, perception of low wages was another significant factor in deterring interest in the trades – however, the FMB’s research shows that by the age of 23, a bricklayer with five years’ experience can earn up to £31,000 and rising in some cases to £52,000 in London.
Tony Passmore, CEO Passmore Group said, “The lack of experienced multi-skilled workers is a huge concern for my business, as it could affect our future growth plans. We urgently need tradespeople that are trained in more than one area, such as plumbing, tiling and joinery for bathroom installations – but we just aren’t seeing the candidates come through.”Hayley Ellis, FMB Director of Training and Membership Services added, “We’re aware that there is a desperate need for new apprentices to join the construction industry. Apprenticeship schemes offer a balance of technical skills and workplace experience, so school leavers can learn on the job and hone their skills – and build a really meaningful career.”