Construction News

Wed December 01 2021

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Quarter of a million construction workers have to be re-trained

29 Sep 15 The Treasury has published a 64-page report from Infrastructure UK analysing the skills shortage facing the construction industry.

The report says 250,000 of the existing workforce will have to re-train in new skills and a further 100,000 new recruits need to be found.

The National Infrastructure Plan for Skills sets out the results of detailed skills analysis and modelling of the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) and describes the key challenges faced by sectors and regions.

The NIP, updated in July 2015, contains details of £411bn of investment in 564 projects and programmes to 2020 and beyond.

The skills plan findings show that the pipeline creates a demand for more than 250,000 construction and more than 150,000 engineering construction workers by 2020, driving a need to recruit and train nearly 100,000 additional workers by the end of the decade.

The required skills blend to deliver the investment plans will change over time leading to a need to retrain around 250,000 of the existing workforce over the next decade in addition to the need to recruit new workers.

The chart below shows the labour demand profile up to 2020 derived from the analysis and modelling. It shows that at the start of 2015 the infrastructure pipeline generated a total workforce of around 380,000, increasing demand over the course of this year. The forecast increase in demand over the short term peaks at over 425,000 before the end of the decade.

The graph also includes an estimate of the total available labour supply assuming an attrition rate of 2% per year is applied to the current workforce. This shows that without any replacement, by 2020 there would be a reduction in workforce numbers meaning demand would outstrip supply by around 100,000 people.

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If not addressed, this would have a significant impact on the delivery of the infrastructure pipeline.

At the end of 2014 there was an estimated total workforce of 360,000 involved in delivery of current infrastructure programmes, with approximately 220,000 working in construction (traditional building and civil engineering construction skills) and 140,000 in engineering construction (the non-traditional construction workforce, which includes elements of the work such as railway engineering and the engineering construction aspects of energy and utilities).

Age analysis of the current workforce indicates that by 2020, 9% of the current workforce will be 65 years of age or over, increasing to 29% by 2030.

Plant operators and construction trades supervisors have a particularly high age profile. In the case of plant operators, approximately 28% of workers are aged 55+ compared to nearly 20% for the industry in general.

Commercial secretary to the Treasury Lord O’Neill said: “It is crucial we have the right people with the right skills in place to build and maintain our first-class infrastructure, essential to rebalancing our economy. This report is just the first step in addressing how we can work with industry to ensure our workforce’s competitiveness for the future.

“We’ll now develop a clear action plan, set to not only strengthen the economy by delivering our most ambitious projects from transport to energy, but improve the quality of citizen’s lives too.”

Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure at KPMG, commented: “This is a report the industry cannot ignore. It shows an overall need for 100,000 additional construction workers and engineers, and at least 250,000 of the existing workforce that need re-training. The recent UK Industry Performance Report revealed that construction employees on average are receiving only 1.2 days of training in a year. We need an entirely different mind-set in the industry if we are to meet the challenge which Infrastructure UK has identified.”

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