October 5, 2023

The Construction Skills Gap: Addressing the Need for Upskilling and Education

In today's construction industry, one of the most pressing challenges we face is the construction skills gap. Lyndsey Gregory, Group Operations Director at DRG Interior and Building Solutions, emphasises the need to address this issue and find sustainable solutions.

To overcome this challenge, our focus must be on upskilling, mentoring, and apprenticeships. By implementing comprehensive training and succession plans, we can nurture talent within our companies and bring in new additional talent from schools, colleges, and retraining programmes.

Upskilling through apprenticeships provides structured training, equipping individuals with the necessary skills for success in this demanding field. Recruiting apprentices is an investment in the future of our industry. Likewise, the role of experienced professionals as mentors cannot be underestimated. Their expertise and guidance create a culture of continuous learning.

Companies must strive to integrate apprenticeships and upskilling into their overall strategies. This not only benefits the organisation but also opens doors to individuals from various backgrounds, promoting inclusivity within the industry.

To bridge the skills gap, a shift in perspective is crucial. Skills training should be seen as an investment rather than a cost. A well-trained workforce boosts efficiency, reduces mistakes, and enhances the industry's reputation - ultimately driving growth.

I truly believe that a positive work environment is at the heart of success in bridging the skills gap and cannot be overstated. Engaging employees, addressing concerns, and nurturing a strong company culture are all essential. A supportive culture not only retains talent but also attracts new talent to our industry.

The government plays a vital role a role to play in addressing the skills gap. Reforms such as those proposed by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) on the apprenticeship levy can have a significant impact. Cooperation between the government and businesses through initiatives like the Construction Industry Collaborative Initiative and via the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) are vital for creating a responsive workforce.

In the pursuit of bridging the construction skills gap and ensuring a sustainable future for the industry, local construction colleges in Cheltenham and Gloucester, and AccXel in the Forest of Dean, have emerged as vital hubs for nurturing talent and promoting career transitions. These colleges serve as essential pillars for both upskilling existing professionals and offering entry points to individuals aspiring to embark on construction careers through apprenticeship schemes and retraining programmes. However, while these colleges play a pivotal role in shaping the industry's future, accessibility remains a key concern.  To attract aspiring construction professionals from all backgrounds, it is imperative that these colleges be easily reachable via good public transport links, thereby making opportunities accessible to everyone.

Reaching out to schools to promote construction as a career option is crucial. Incentives and support should be given to these outreach efforts. Government support is essential, with clear pathways and effective communication accessible to smaller businesses. Collaboration and teamwork are necessary to share knowledge and make lasting change.

T-Levels provide an alternative path for students who are not inclined towards traditional education routes. Increased government support for these programmes can expand our talent pool and bring fresh perspectives to the construction industry.

The industry must also address the decline in EU nationals by considering extended work visas and simplified processes. Embracing inclusivity enriches our sector and brings new ideas and experiences.  

We also need to be ready to embrace emerging advancements such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and ensure we prepare for challenges and opportunities these will bring.  Younger generations will grow up with these advancements and we need to harness that – with the rest of us needing to engage with the journey these changes will take us on.

Closing the construction skills gap necessitates a unified effort from all stakeholders - government, businesses, schools, and individuals. By focusing on expanding education, upskilling and fostering a positive culture, we can ensure a sustainable future for the construction industry. Cooperation and effective communication between the government and industry are essential to guide the next generation towards clear career options.