From ‘bridging’ and ‘plugging’ it, to ‘minding’ and ‘closing’ it, the nation’s skills gap is something that the industry loves to discuss, yet shies away from implementing practical solutions. As with lags in housebuilding and infrastructure investment, the British government and the construction sector have been in denial for decades. Now we are beginning to see the consequences of this procrastination and a fragmented industry.
Systematic underinvestment in the national workforce and a failure to heed the warning signs have contributed to a slip in productivity that currently sees the UK languish behind a host of other world economies. Meanwhile, capacity ceilings in some areas of the industry have seen prices jump and projects delayed.
When it comes to construction, the housing industry bemoans planning restrictions; the infrastructure sector cites indecision as stalling progress; and Brexit triggered a deluge of talk about material costs and currency effects. These factors are hugely significant but without the right people to do the work none of them matter one bit. Even before Britain voted 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.
When it comes to building the homes and transport hubs of tomorrow it is sadly not as simple as merely training more people or relying on technology, automation and robotics. Getting the right people in the right places to do the right jobs is infinitely more complex than many give credit. At Arcadis we are taking the skills crisis very seriously. In order to evidence the scale of the issue we have undertaken a detailed analysis of how many people are needed to build our homes and infrastructure to make sure our economy succeeds. As a nation, this is now the biggest issue we face.
To download the full report from the Arcadis website, please click here.