Demand for Construction Workers at all Time High

All sectors are feeling the pinch in this candidate-led market, with unemployment at record lows as employers scramble to find enough workers to fill their vacant roles.

But nowhere is this more true than in the construction industry, which, according to the latest report by the Construction Skills Network, could struggle to meet expected growth if an additional quarter of a million workers aren’t employed by 2026.

In this article, we discuss the key findings of the report and reveal its suggestions for how recruiters can increase their teams.

As the shock of the pandemic has begun to lessen, the construction sector has had one of the largest bounce backs of all industries. New orders had recovered to their pre-pandemic level by Q2 2021, and annual construction output went on to increase by a record 12.7% in 2021.

And the trend continues, the ONS recently reported that the construction workforce grew by 1.2% in Q1 this year, rising from 2.16m in 2021 Q4 to 2.18m.

But these numbers aren’t going to be enough to support the growth in the sector, with a Construction Skills Network (CSN) report showing that the industry will need an additional 266,000 by 2026.

Back in January, the Construction Products Association (CPA) forecast that industry output would grow by 4.3% in 2022, and the trend will continue. There will be 2.78 million workers employed in the construction industry by 2026 if projected growth is met.

What is driving the growth in the construction industry?

Despite a variety of factors causing supply chain issues, there seems to be no end to the surging demand for private housing, as major housebuilders report that their output will continue to grow over the next few years.

In addition, the government’s drive to achieve Net Zero, along with technological advancements in eco-friendly building techniques, is pushing a growth in sustainable projects.

There is also no slowing down in the infrastructure sector, with civil engineering projects at a high.

Repair and maintenance contracts will also be needed to support the growing built environment. 

Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) chief executive Tim Balcon said: “Construction is vital in supporting the backbone of the UK economy. These future growth projections are encouraging after the stalling effects of the pandemic. However, this is set against a current backdrop of higher energy costs, material shortages, and associated price inflation that is currently hitting companies across the sector.”

What skills are short and where?

The report states that the largest increases in annual demand will be for carpenters, joiners, and construction managers as well as technical roles such as electronics technicians and estimators, and non-site support staff.

The South-West sees the biggest need for additional staff, with 41,950 new workers required to meet demands, while Greater London and the Southeast will need 26,000 and 23,000, respectively.

Suggestions of how to grow teams

The report admits that recruitment is a challenge. Construction vacancies are at a 20-year high and coupled with the competition for talent from other industries, this will mean that employers will need to rethink their recruitment strategies.

The report suggests that there just aren’t enough fully skilled workers in the pool to cover demand, so attracting young people, and training them from the ground up, will be a key strategy. But this means that the industry needs to work on its image to be able to attract talent, with only 2% of people in a recent survey considering construction as their preferred industry of work. 

Employers are encouraged to attract workers from non-traditional routes, such as adult re-skillers as well as develop domestic talent through Further Education (FE).

Balcon also reminded of the need for increased diversity in this traditionally male-dominated environment, “Training routes into the industry will be a focus for us and we have to attract and retain those that are under-represented – in particular women and those from ethnic minorities. It will be a major task, but the industry needs to evolve and reach its untapped potential for the national economy and our competitiveness on a global scale,” he said.

But employers must also ensure that they are working to retain their skilled workers, by providing competitive rewards packages and putting employee experience at the top of their priority list.

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