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Construction skills body warns against skills shortage

CITB-ConstructionSkills, the industry Training Board and Sector Skills Council has issued a warning to Government and industry, encouraging them to prevent a long term skills shortage of construction workers.

The warning came as new figures from the Construction Skills Network (CSN) revealed that the latest spending cuts risk plunging the already hard-hit construction industry back into recession.

Annual CSN figures released in January had forecast 38,000 job losses in 2010 as the industry makes a slow and painful recovery from the recession.

However, a new revision to these figures shows that these severe cuts could put a further 68,000 jobs in construction at risk from 2011 through to 2015 as well as putting further strain on the number of places available for apprentices and graduates.

These latest figures come on the back of more than 144,000 workers in the UK’s construction industry losing their jobs between 2008 and 2009.

The cuts risk a prolonged period of recession for the building sector, rather than the slow and steady return to moderate levels of growth that CSN research predicted earlier this year.

ConstructionSkills deputy chairman Judy Lowe said: “Obviously any Government seeking to balance the books has to look at the procurement of major public programmes. Most people in the industry would agree, for example, that BSF has been slow, costly and Byzantine in its complexity. But these projections make for bleak reading, and frankly, they may only be the start. 

“What we’d prefer, is to work with government to make sure that public sector programmes are procured more cost-effectively. That way people get their desperately-needed schools and hospitals, and we don’t risk putting an additional 68,000 people out of work.”

The industry currently supports some 8% of GDP and provides employment for large numbers of graduates and apprentices. Stability in levels of long-term investment plays a critical part in protecting employment and skills.

Experience of past recessions indicates that those leaving the industry now will be highly skilled workers who will choose not to return to the sector when the recovery comes, said ConstructionSkills. The result could be chronic skills shortages in craft, technical and professional occupations which will impact on the industry’s ability to effectively contribute to the UK economy for years to come.

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