Skills shortages will drive sweeping change across construction

The shortage of HGV drivers that is crippling the supply chain across the country comes as no surprise to the construction industry.

They are already keenly aware of the skills shortage facing the country right now. And with 33,000 current construction vacancies, business leaders shudder with a deep sense of dread when they look to the future.

Brexit and the pandemic have undoubtedly accelerated the predicted rate of decline in terms of both the timescale and the size of the gap. Indeed, the 2016 Farmer Review had highlighted the scale of the skills gap, predicting a 20-25% reduction in the available construction workforce within a decade.

Most construction companies have moved slowly towards solutions that increase efficiency. For example, moving towards prefabrication and off-site manufacture will increase quality, enhance facilities management, decrease time on site, cost, HSQE risk and, therefore, drive improvements in sustainability.

However, construction leaders have not driven efficiency solutions like prefabrication as hard as they should have, not really…

Let’s be honest, it’s tough enough getting a job over the line, not to mention adding in R&D, BIM, innovation, and new ways of working. But now, if those working in construction don’t embrace change, they will see their small margins reduced even further at best, or they will not be able to operative competitively and face a painful death at worst.

Clients need efficiency. They want speed, reduced risk and better quality all wrapped up in a sustainable way. Industry leaders have always known that of course, but now the severe skills shortage at the coal face makes it increasingly impossible to deliver.

Therefore, business leaders must change; they must embrace efficiency.  They don’t need to work harder, simply put, they need to work smarter. 

The market isn’t slowing, forecasts confidently project growth through to 2023 (2021 +28%, 2022 +5%, 2023 +6%).  There are planned infrastructure projects, significant housing targets, and population growth in all but a few city regions driving the need for hospitals and schools, not to mention continued commercial private sector demand as offices remodel.

So what do leaders in construction need to do now?

They must lift their heads up above day-to-day operational delivery and invest time and resource into finding strategic partnerships and solutions that will reduce the skills-gap and align with market demand for efficiency.

They must more widely embrace new technological advances and become comfortable with smart buildings and even smarter building materials.

Those that don’t have the leadership resource to make this happen, need to invest in talent that can, because it’s essential that construction leaders drive change across the sector, and quickly.

VIV'S HOT TAKE: Skills shortages will drive change across construction sector.

Viv Sutherland

UK Strategy Director

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