The skills shortage: Why the construction sector must prioritise its people
Richard Mussell, Managing Director at Rund Partnership, addresses the skills shortage within the construction industry, as featured on Showhouse.
“Prioritising people within the construction industry must be a focus, if we’re to start mending the skills shortage.
“Skills shortages in the construction industry have been threatening to delay major building projects for years, but now more than ever, gaps need to be plugged to be able to keep up with the demand of regeneration that the country is experiencing. The construction industry is a huge contributor to the UK economy, generating almost £90 billion annually (6.7% of GDP) and employing in excess of 2.93 million people, yet still the sector suffers greatly with shortages of skilled labour.
“July of this year was just the beginning of what is going to be a challenging time for recruitment in the sector, with companies unable to find enough workers to fulfil swelling project books. However, maybe a change of approach is needed to attract more young people to the sector and as we enter a new era for the workplace, some things are long past due to change in the construction industry.
“The way people now see the world of work is dramatically different and creating a culture-change on issues that affect our industry as a workplace, is fundamental to the success of it. After all, people are an organisations most valuable asset, where knowledge, skills and experience are increasingly driving profit. One of the most important things to remember, is that you cannot run a successful business over the long term if your people are not happy, healthy or they do not feel safe or supported.
“The latter is key. Feeling safe and supported in the construction industry is often spoken about in regards to physical safety, but too regularly overlooked with it comes to mental safety. It is widely known, that there is a mental health crisis in the sector, with the suicide rate of UK construction workers estimated to be as high as two people every day. UK construction workers are also nearly three times more likely to die by suicide than their counterparts in other industries which is deeply distressing. And whilst there is a rise in support groups and charities available for people in the sector to seek the help they need – companies need to be committed to cultivating attitudes in the workplace which are prioritising health.
“Ultimately, sectors and companies that will succeed, will be the ones that put people first, and there’s no reason why the construction industry as a whole cannot demonstrate this. Changing the reputation and attitudes towards the sector is imperative, and will help in finding better ways to transfer knowledge from older to younger people and ensure valuable skills and training is passed across the generations.
“The surveying sector in particular, has fantastic opportunities for young people to be involved in, managing and supporting the creation of iconic new regeneration areas, buildings and city centres. These highly skilled roles are little known of two young people going through education, but if the sector were celebrated for its wellbeing-centric and inclusive values, it would be more likely that young people would consider construction as a viable route of employment, and as a sector we can welcome more and more generations to come.”