3 August 2020 3 min read

Labor shortage in the construction industry UK

 

The labor shortage is a continuous problem in the UK's construction industry. It got even more serious due to the current covid crisis. Is there anything we can do about it?

England should build about 340,000 homes per year until 2031 to meet the rising demand, but with constant labor shortages this number seems to be impossible to achieve. What’s even worse is that the shortage (that hit its worst recorded level yet) is expected to worsen over the coming years. Especially now, after the CoVid19 pandemic that had a huge impact on the construction industry.

The data shows the situation can become dire. With construction being a major sector of the UK economy, a shortage of labor is a black hole in industries development. Researches studying what effect this could have on the industry highlight a few key issues:

Health & Safety matters
The construction sector is not a safe one to begin with so following procedures and regulations is crucial. Many see the health risks as a huge factor (especially in the time of pandemic) and don’t want to even consider working in the sector.

Rate of retirement
An increasing number of retiring workers is fueling the labor shortages, meanwhile not enough young candidates are showing up to replace them.

Stability of the sector
Many fear of working in the construction industry because of its instability and prefer to search for a more stable career with a more competitive salary in a less risky environment.

Social image
Unfortunately there still is a perception of construction being a “hard” and “dirty” sector. Moreover studies have shown that 52% of contractors believe that working in the industry is viewed as just a “job” rather than a career.

Companies try to address those problems in various ways: starting with on broad training courses for staff, and ending at hiring workers from abroad. Some understand that the current situation has also a lot to do with outdated perception of the construction industry as a whole. They also acknowledge how important it is to educate the society from early years about opportunities for development that this industry offers.

What can be changed?

The construction industry is still a foundation of the economy and regardless of how hard the times we live in are, we need to be working on solving the challenges it faces. Here are a few things we can do to support the sector:

Educate young minds
By educating younger generations we’re building the future of the industry, and by employing young (sometimes less experienced) workers, we ensure a transition of knowledge and experience between them and the older generations. With constant development of the industry and a digital transformation at hand, we need more and more tech savvy people who will handle technology that is coming to modernise construction. By supporting charities, like f.ex. Construction Youth Trust, that aim to inspire and enable young people to overcome adversity, and discover a career in construction - we are supporting the future of the sector.

Use modern technology
With the current shortage of workers - any help that you can get is greatly appreciated. Technology breakthroughs bring continuous support to all industries. Some companies are still scared of implementing new solutions, viewing it as ‘automation taking away their job’. This couldn't be more wrong! It would be unwise not to use the fruits of modern construction solutions. As we can see with the example exoskeleton’s, technology is here to help workers be more efficient, not replace them.

Encourage female workers
There is a huge potential that comes with empowering women to join construction. Using it can bring fresh perspective to a workplace, and introduce a better, more diverse work environment. Thankfully there are initiatives like KickAss Career that strive to engage, educate, and encourage youth to consider careers in the MITC (Mechanical, Industrial, Technology, and Construction) sectors through school and community outreach. Learn more about the women in construction in our “Empower By Example’’ series.

Automate to boost productivity
There is a huge potential that comes with empowering women to join construction. Using it can bring fresh perspective to a workplace, and introduce a better, more diverse work environment. Thankfully there are initiatives like KickAss Career that strive to engage, educate, and encourage youth to consider careers in the MITC (Mechanical, Industrial, Technology, and Construction) sectors through school and community outreach. Learn more about the women in construction in our “Empower By Example’’ series.

There isn’t any simple solution for a complex problem of this magnitude, but taking small steps may be a good way to start. Employee training alongside with educating upcoming generations, and the proper use of technology should be the way to start. We have so many options now - from the use of specialist construction management solutions handling all workflow in construction companies, to using inventions like self-driving excavators, drones or robotics. The only thing left is to start using resources that are available now in a smart and responsible way to achieve a better future.

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