Trade body calls for ‘unprecedented surge in training and recruitment’ to meet infrastructure goals


THE Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) has called for an ‘unprecedented surge in training and recruitment’ to coincide with the UK Government’s announcement of a £650 billion investment in infrastructure projects over the next decade.

BESA described the infrastructure plans as a ‘vote of confidence’ for the sector but said the programme ‘relies heavily on improving productivity through greater use of digital technology and innovation’. The organisation added that increasing use of Modern Methods of Construction will also be ‘crucial’ and will need to be supported by specific skills, many of which are currently in ‘short supply’.

Helen Yeulet, BESA’s director of training and skills, explained, “The current turmoil in our supply chains is a stark reminder of how failing to invest in training and retaining high quality people can undermine the best laid plans. The Government’s infrastructure plans are extremely exciting, but will place even greater strain on the industry’s workforce unless accompanied by a colossal push to bring new blood into the sector and up-skill existing workers.”

BESA added that competition for skilled workers is expected to rise further and will require employers to look closely at what they can offer.

Yeulet added, “People shortages are likely to continue for an extended period. This is not just about Brexit. We have seen a whole shift in the economy, which was accelerated by the pandemic and has led to record pay packages for people working in transport, logistics and hospitality.

“On the plus side, it has also started to redress the balance for many people in low paid jobs and means employers in our sector need to make sure what they are offering is attractive. They need to make sure they are treating existing staff fairly and have clear career progression plans in place to entice new people into our sector with the right skills to take us forward.”

BESA said it was seeing ‘encouraging growth’ in young people interested in workplace-based training.

“The current turmoil in labour markets should be something of a wake-up call for many employers,” Yeulet added. “There are a lot of workers who feel undervalued and treated like commodities. Investing in their professional development and rewarding them properly is the best way to demonstrate that their skills are valued.

“Building engineering will play a crucial role in rebuilding the economy and driving us towards a lower carbon future, so it is very important that we don’t undervalue our own product. Ironically, this difficult period could be a great opportunity to leave our ‘low-cost cut price’ culture behind and show clients why the whole industry deserves to be better funded and rewarded.”