"Skills gulf" means Britain will need to recruit one worker every 77 seconds to meet construction needs

Rebecca Smith
The report said the UK faced a
The report said the UK faced a "skills gulf" when it came to construction (Source: Getty)
he UK needs to recruit 400,000 people each year until 2021, or one worker every 77 seconds, if it's to meet house building and construction needs.

And London and the South East will need to employ 110,000 people, more than any other part of the UK, making up nearly 30 per cent of the total.

A new report from engineering and consultancy firm Arcadis has examined the extent of the skills gap across the UK's entire infrastructure and house building workforce and said that the current gap is independent of any potential effects of Brexit, which it said would "further exacerbate the situation".

Should a hard Brexit materialise and the points-based system for non-EU migrants be extended, the UK could miss out on additional 215,000 migrant workers by 2020.

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And failure to address the skills gap could see the earnings of some tradespeople surge inside a generation, Arcadis said.

In house building alone, the research found that if the UK is to increase output to 270,000 new homes over the next five years, it will need to employ in excess of 370,000 new people.

And to meet forecast national infrastructure requirements, an additional 36,500 people will need to be employed every year.

In terms of individual skills, the biggest need is for carpenters and joiners; Arcadis said demand accounts for nearly one sixth of all national resource requirements. Also in demand are plumbers, electricians and bricklayers.

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To hit delivery targets on major national infrastructure programmes such as HS2 and Crossrail 2, the report said firms will need to draw heavily on the common talent pool of transferable skills.

Type of job Number of new people needed
Carpenters and joiners 60,409
Plumbers 46,827
Electricians 40,340
Painters 33,641
Construction directors 26,403
Bricklayers 18,146
Programme managers 7,478
Civil engineers 7,414
Quantity surveyors 7,325

James Bryce, Arcadis director of workforce planning, said:

What we have is not a skills gap; it is a skills gulf. Construction employment is already down 15 percent on 2008 and, quite simply, if we don’t have the right people to build the homes and infrastructure we need, the UK is going to struggle to maintain its competitive position in the global economy.

However, overcoming a skills shortfall as vast as the one we now face can’t be achieved through education and technology alone. Of course, we need to bring more new talent into the industry but, in the short term, construction will also need to look at those currently working in other industries and dramatically improve its efficiency.

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