Construction is one of the largest sectors in the UK economy employing 3.1 million people (9 per cent of the total UK workforce). However the industry faces a serious skills shortage. The current average age of a construction worker is 49 whilst the number of young people attracted to the industry is at an all-time low.
The challenge is stark – recruiting and training for traditional skilled trades whilst also up-skilling and diversifying the existing workforce.
For a possible solution perhaps we should look to Japan. Japan’s ageing workforce has led to a severe labour shortage in the construction and civil engineering industry but it has responded to the crisis by investing heavily in modern methods of construction and robotics.
The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model “Modernise or Die” reached a similar conclusion. It recommended that the UK construction industry needs to become less labour-intensive and fully embrace the greater efficiencies technology can deliver.
Research by Mace suggests a need to re-skill over 600,000 construction employees by 2040 to new roles driven by advances in digital technology. Increasingly the use of artificial intelligence, automation, 3D printing and robotics will have a significant impact on the construction industry. Dubbed the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” it will also mean creating new roles for skilled workers in cutting-edge areas such as computer programming, robotic engineering and drone technology.
A commitment to work collaboratively to achieve these objectives is at the heart of the Construction Sector Deal agreed by the Government and the Construction Leadership Council. This will see the production of a Construction Skills Strategy aimed at retaining and retraining a workforce that is fit for the future together with a £64 million investment for digital and construction training to help up-skill construction workers and retrain them in new valuable skills. With a major pipeline of construction projects in the North West we must take a leading role in transforming the industry.
This article was published in the March 2018 edition of Insider North West Magazine.