Increasing levels of gender diversity, widening talent pipelines and improving the wider public image of the sector will help to tackle the ongoing skills shortages plaguing the construction industry, according to One Way.

An analysis by the leading construction and rail consultancy has revealed that the skills shortages can only be tackled by employers being proactive and going above and beyond the call of duty. This comes at a time when estimates suggest that 27,000 projects will suffer from a lack of suitably skilled and qualified workers over the next five years.

Paul Payne, managing director of One Way, comments on the required approaches:

Improve gender diversity

“It’s downright negligent to almost rule out half of the workforce from working in the industry, but that’s essentially what is happening. We don’t need to go over-the-top, but considering how we could make the sector that bit more inclusive would make a huge difference. No other mainstream industry suffers from such a colossal lack of diversity and it’s certainly a major factor contributing to the skills shortages. We have launched our #GirlsAllowed programme and we’d urge more firms to consider similar approaches.”

Promote a better image of the industry to the public

“How many people outside of the field realistically know the potential that a construction career holds? In reality, it’s very few. The main stereotype is that a job in the sector means being cold and muddy and standing outside digging a ditch somewhere. That needs to change. The skills of quantity surveyors, for example, are similar to those of an accountant, and rather than being handcuffed to a desk for the rest of your career, they have the chance to work on major infrastructure or construction projects. Unfortunately, nowhere near enough people outside of the sector know about this.”

Widen talent pipelines into construction

“This can only be achieved by improving the wider image of the industry as, currently, few youngsters actively seek out a career in construction. To solve this, firms need to be proactive, get into schools and colleges and actually speak to children about the potential a career in the field holds. The alternative is to rest on our laurels and continue to do very little, which will only lead to the construction industry in this country falling apart.”

Ministers have today announced that they want the construction industry to focus efforts on attracting, developing and retaining home grown talent into the industry and remove barriers currently preventing more young people from entering the sector.

This involves looking at how companies recruit and train, but also at how adopting modern technologies and methods could help to keep our sector interesting, up-to-date and attractive to the next generation of budding construction professionals.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis and Skills Minister Nick Boles have stressed that they want the construction industry to re-evaluate their current business models to see if there is enough attention being paid to recruitment. The ministers suggested that businesses should also consider other methods of construction – such as offsite manufacturing – to help diversify the industry.

The Construction Leadership Council has been called upon to review what skills the construction industry need to provide enough homes to meet national demand and tackle the housing crisis effectively.

The Council has asked Mark Farmer, of real estate and construction consultancy Cast, to identify actions that will help bring more workers to the industry.

Views are being sought on how to best train a workforce which has a high level of self-employment and bring about greater use of off-site construction. The review will also look at how the industry can introduce measures that encourage more investment and new ways of working.

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said “The number of new homes is up 25% in the last year – and this is further proof we’ve got the country building again and delivering the homes the nation wants.”

“This means thousands of jobs are now up for grabs and we’re determined to make sure that there are enough skilled workers to get the job done.”

“Construction offers an exciting and rewarding career and we need to build a new generation of home grown talented, ambitious and highly skilled construction workers.”

Skills Minister Nick Boles commented “The government is committed to getting Britain building. We are investing in measures to cut red tape and increase the number of young people doing apprenticeships and traineeships to ensure we have a pipeline of skilled workers.”

“As leaders in the industry, the Council is best placed to advise on how to boost productivity in the sector and build the houses and infrastructure our nation needs.”

Mark Farmer, chief executive officer at Cast, added “I’m delighted to be asked to lead this review. The construction industry’s skills shortfall has been growing progressively and its ageing workforce now means affirmative action needs to be taken to avoid more acute issues in the future.”

“A healthy and robust construction sector is vital to underpinning the government’s commitment to delivering critical new housing and infrastructure projects. It will also ensure the unrivalled economic multiplier effect related to construction activity continues to play its part within the wider UK economy.”

“The industry needs to seize the opportunity to celebrate the vital contribution it makes and, in partnership with government and other key stakeholders, ensure it overcomes the current barriers to fulfilling its potential.”