Construction companies must embrace educational collaboration to avoid skills shortages, says Matt Grellier, head of construction and engineering at law firm Slater Heelis LLP.
According to the findings of an independent group commissioned by the Scottish Government, there is a skills shortage in the Scottish construction sector that is contributing to a shortfall of some 7,000 homes per year.
Small and medium sized firms are said to be hit worst by this shortage of appropriately trained bricklayers, joiners, painters and decorators.
In my experience of working with construction firms across the whole of the UK, this certainly isn’t a unique problem to Scotland.
Right across the country, construction companies are finding it difficult to recruit adequately trained and skilled construction workers to deliver major construction projects.
The report recommended that early engagement in primary schools and better use of social media to promote the construction sector could help attract new workers.
The Slater Heelis construction team works with a number of education establishments and we are detecting a desire to engage students more in the construction industry.
There will be huge opportunities for young people entering a sector which is set to witness one of the most transformative and innovative periods in British housebuilding history.
Increasingly dynamic training which encourages diversity is key to developing the next generation of skilled British construction workers which is essential, particularly in times of European Union uncertainty.
It certainly won’t be easy.
It is heartening to see female enrolments in graduate apprenticeships rising from 14% in 2015 to nearly 25% in some new graduate apprentice routes. However, the take-up by females for modern apprenticeships is less than 2%.
It is now critical that primary schools begin to ‘plant the seed’ that a future career in construction can be a rewarding and fulfilling vocation.
Through secondary schools, the sector must communicate how subject choices can influence students’ future career options and engage more with young people, perhaps offering ‘taster sessions’ of the various career opportunities and utilising the fantastic role models the industry has.
Some of the skills that will be required in construction over the coming decade and beyond will be a million miles away from those traditionally associated with the industry. It is the job of everyone involved in the sector to make our young people aware of how fulfilling a career in construction can be.
Matt Grellier is head of construction and engineering at Slater Heelis. He has experience advising on contentious and non-contentious matters and acts for clients including developers, contractors and professional consultants.