This week Arcadis released a report on tackling the skills gap within the UK construction industry with a specific focus around the issues that the environmental team face in hiring good graduates and experienced hires. The article can be found on the Environmental Analyst (you may have to sign up to view it!)
The article is very much in line with an event I was invited to attend this time last year which was a Talent Scale Event hosted by Arcadis aimed at addressing the growing skills gap within the UK construction industry and how this will be further affected by the impact of Brexit.
At the time Simon Light – UK Client Development for Arcadis stated that:
“Even before Britain voting to exit the European Union, the number of people in the UK properly equipped to deliver the nation’s lofty modernisation plans was well below requisite levels. Official figures show that construction employment is 15 percent down on 2008, with large numbers leaving the industry in their fifties. These people have left the industry never to return”
The skills gap in the industry has been growing steadily over the past two decades and was significantly increased as a result of the most recent recession. I recruit for a wide range of building consultancies and surveying firms across the UK and most of my clients are looking for recently chartered surveyors and senior consultants who have around 4-8 years postgraduate experience. There’s a huge requirement in the market at this level as a knock on result of the Great Recession in 2008.
One of the key factors that was highlighted last year by Clair Mowbray, Chief Executive at National College for High Speed Rail was that education on construction needs to be a focus from a young age. Parents and teachers need to be comfortable in teaching children that a future in the construction industry is both fulfilling and important.
One way Arcadis and many other global consultancies are tackling this issue is by offering apprenticeship programmes to school leavers. Andrew Limage MD of ESRI said "There are a lot of really bright school leavers who just don’t want come out of university with £50k worth of debt to get a degree, so we are working with a group of consultancies to try and get an accredited degree course for apprentices."
When you add the relatively new impact of Brexit into the mix projections can make for concerning viewing. In the event of a ‘Hard Brexit’, Arcadis believes that extending the points-based system currently in place for non-EU migrants – could see the number of EU construction workers entering the UK fall at the rate of attrition. This would mean that EU nationals could leave the industry at a quicker rate than they can be replaced. Arcadis estimate that in the event of a Hard Brexit, almost 215,000 fewer people from the EU would enter the infrastructure and house building sectors between now and 2020.
Even in the event of a ‘soft’ Brexit the construction workforce could again see a steady reduction in numbers and it is estimated that approximately 135,000 fewer EU nationals would relocate to British construction – a number equivalent to the population of Ipswich.
Note: these projections under a hard or soft Brexit were released last year before Theresa May shook things up further by announcing that we would actually be having a ‘red, white and blue Brexit’…
The 4 key points from the findings of the Arcadis Talent Scale were:
- Britain must recruit over 400,000 people each year to deliver in line with housing and infrastructure need, equivalent of one person every 77 seconds.
- London, the South East and the East of England have the greatest need for people
- A hard Brexit could see UK Construction miss out on as many as 214,000 EU workers
- The skills crisis cannot be solved through training and education alone, rapid plugging is required to minimise any Brexit shortfall.
Despite some daunting figures, the event and key speakers were fairly positive in taking a proactive approach in dealing with this issue head on, and highlighting the need to determine a long-term plan for bridging this gap, rather than just discussing it and letting the problem continue.
Recruitment Agencies will play a large part in plugging the Brexit gap, and methods of recruitment will have to become more inventive in sourcing candidates for new areas and selling the idea of working within the UK construction industry. In the long term, technology may become more prevalent, but education and training will be key, otherwise the UK will see a further decline in the number of its construction professionals, which will, in turn, be detrimental to the industry as a whole.
I joined Mattinson Partnership in 2014 after completing a BSc in Geography from Aberystwyth University. Over the last 3 and a half years with the business I have become a Team Leader whilst developing the Construction & Real Estate sector - placing professionals across Health & Safety, Building Surveying, Quantity Surveying, Project Management, Valuations, Development and Land. Outside of work I enjoy going to art galleries and film events, as well as using all of my annual leave to climb up mountains in Africa and travel around Southern India and Europe.