Unless the construction sector can get more young people interested in working in the industry it is going to face some serious skills shortages in the coming years.

As our managing director, Peter O’Brien, pointed out recently in his article ‘How to secure post-recession growth’ for Construction News magazine, one of the biggest challenges that the industry faces in coming years is skills shortages. Not only are hundreds of thousands of knowledgeable and experienced people due to retire over the next five years, getting young people interested in a career in construction is a serious challenge.

But it’s not just Peter’s opinion – the most recent skills survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) showed that 82% of respondents agree. This was a huge 11% increase in the number of people recognising the problem in just two years since the survey prior to this one.

Not only that, a report that CIOB published last year ‘No More Lost Generations’ has some even more alarming statistics in it:

  • 182,000 construction jobs to be filled by 2018
  • Only 7,280 construction sector apprenticeships completed in 2013

So at a time when just under one million of Britain’s young people are classified as NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training) and are facing long-term unemployment, or having to sign up to zero hours contracts in unskilled and poorly paid jobs, it’s time for our construction companies to start thinking ahead and looking to provide attractive entry-level jobs with training and development packages that will lead to well-paid careers in a rewarding and challenging sector.

We realise that’s important to walk the walk and not just talk the talk so we’ve just created a new work experience programme for school leavers to come and spend a week with us to learn about the excellent career opportunities available to them. The first student has already been through the programme and there are more to come. We’ve also introduced an Apprenticeship programme and fast-track mentoring scheme, which will see 4 young people coming into our business each year.

But the impact we can have needs to be built on by the wider industry and we all need to work together to come up with innovative solutions to the problems we face. We have to overcome prejudices that young people might have about jobs in the construction industry, be they around environmental sustainability, health and safety, or even just the lack of perceived glamour. We have to learn to talk to these young people in a new way – they come from a different world to us but without them, we will struggle to build the homes, shops, businesses and infrastructure that we all need for the future.

There will be no quick solution but we want to start the conversations now so that it doesn’t end up being too late and we can get the processes we need in place now to start bringing more young people into our aging industry.

For more insights into the challenges our industry is facing read Peter’s article: How to secure post-recession growth