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Construction skills shortage threatens house building, warns LGA

Words: Laura Edgar
Construction / iStock_000010378707

A worsening shortfall in construction skills could threaten the government’s target to build 275,000 affordable homes by 2020, say councils.

There is a “growing mismatch” between the construction industry’s increasing demand for skills and a falling number of people gaining construction qualifications, the Local Government Association (LGA) said following the release of its analysis.

Skills to build: Creating the house and jobs our communities need (PDF) says that while the construction industry’s forecasted annual recruitment need has increased by 54 per cent for the past three years - from 29,050 a year in 2013 to 44,690 a year from 2015 - 10,000 fewer construction qualifications are being awarded by colleges, apprenticeships and universities.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, said the number of people gaining construction qualifications, however, has been “falling for some time”.

“There are 58 per cent fewer completed construction apprentices today than in 2009,” the report states, with the LGA saying 56 per cent of skilled trade construction vacancies “are hard to fill”.

Councils warn that this mismatch is leaving the construction industry “stranded without the skilled employees needed to deliver on the government's ambitions for house building”.

Peter Box, chair of the LGA’s housing board, said: “For too long we've trained too many hairdressers and not enough bricklayers. Too few apprentices are getting the construction skills to build the homes and roads our local communities need and developers are struggling to recruit skilled labour to build new homes.”

The LGA therefore are calling on the government to work with the construction industry, councils and education providers to develop a national ‘Skills to Build’ strategy in an attempt to solve this “growing shortage”. The strategy should, the LGA say, be delivered through the devolution process.

“Industry is clear that skills gaps are one of their greatest barriers to building. If we are to see the homes desperately needed across the country built and jobs and apprenticeships created, councils must be given a leading role,” said Box.

“In return for increased funding and powers, councils, schools, colleges and employers could work together to reduce unemployment, close this widening construction skills gap and ramp up house building.”