Construction industry leaders warn of labour shortages

Gary Higgins (left) & Ben Milsom (right)

Gary Higgins (left) & Ben Milsom (right)

A number of construction industry leaders have issued a warning about labour shortages in their sector.

Gary Higgins and Ben Milsom, founders of GBRS Recruitment, Tim Stringer of Integral Build and Gemma Day of Dowlas have come on record following the uplift in the construction sector and the news that many more jobs in the industry are expected to be created.

Gary and Ben started GBRS three years ago and now employ seven people, going from turning over nothing to just shy of £2.5 million in this short time, making it one of the fastest growing companies in the South West.

But the pair have noticed that many young people don’t attach prestige to forging a long-term career in the construction industry and that with many more jobs being created, a real skills crisis is looming.

Ben Milsom comments: “It won’t apply to everybody but generally we have found that young people don’t place as much value on a career in construction, as maybe they should.

“Certainly for many it’s seen as a seasonal or in-between job but the industry has huge growth and earning potential.

“There has also been a lot of debate around whether younger people in the UK have the skills to fill more specialist roles. We think they do – it’s just a questions of finding and training them.”

Integral Build Director Tim Stringer, has also come on record about skills shortages in the industry.

He comments: “Integral Build have certainly found sourcing key trades, specifically traditional ones such as plastering and bricklaying, more difficult over the last year or so.

“This is still proving to be an issue going into 2015 and we can’t see it getting any better, especially as the industry gets busier.

“It does seems to me that the average age of the tradesmen is gradually getting older and this is a major concern for the future. Is it that young people are not excited about these trades?

“I would guess this is the case and the industry as a whole needs to look at itself very carefully to work out the best way to encourage school children and young adults – both male and female – that this is a great industry to be a part of.”

Gemma Day who is Director of Dowlas, the enabling developer for the Junction 21 Enterprise Area that is one of the biggest developments outside of London, comments: “We are experiencing lots of enquiries at our site and together with our partners have already finished some projects.

“As things continue to pick up I am starting to see a strain on skills which is a concern. What can we do? There is no magic bullet but engaging students at a younger age is one way.”

Gary Higgins, of GBRS, concludes: “Finding the next generation of young construction leaders is vital as the faster than expected recovery has resulted in a nationwide shortage of trained workers – with the number of bricklayers out of work dwindling to just 1,775 in August from a peak of 15,425 back in 2009.”