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Skills shortage remains despite recession

Results from the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) third annual skills survey show that the industry is still suffering a skills shortage despite the recession and downturn in construction demand.

77% of respondents believe there is a skills shortage in construction and 78% of those feel that the loss of skills will hinder the industry’s recovery when the economy improves.

“Construction has been notoriously bad at attracting students, and other new entrants, which has exasperated the industry’s long-term skills development,” said CIOB Deputy Chief Executive Michael Brown. “There is no denying the importance of graduate and apprentice recruitment as these employees represent the future of the industry. Over three quarters (76%) of all respondents felt apprenticeships should be mandatory on public projects, which would help to encourage the employment of apprentices. However, economic problems are forcing many companies to recruit fewer graduates and to cut the number of apprenticeships – just to survive.

“There is a danger that once the industry demand rises, and recruitment increases, there will be a mass of previously skilled workers who choose not to return to the industry having opted for other careers. The industry has never fully recovered from the recession in the 90’s, particularly at the management and senior management level. We must learn from those lessons and find ways to put in place the vital skills needed for recovery and beyond.”

The sample consisted of 1182 construction industry professionals, the majority (64%) of whom describe themselves as management. 

Respondents felt that the skills shortage is largely due to companies being unable to afford to employ their workers. 54% of respondents state that their company has had to make redundancies, and 14% expect redundancies to occur.

There is great concern about the number of students entering the industry. 51% feel this factor will contribute to skill shortages worsening over the next few years. The results show that only 12% of respondents are aware of their companies recruiting more graduates, and only 1% are recruiting the same number of graduates as before.

Only 37% of respondents are sure their companies are still employing apprentices. 11% state that their companies usually employ apprentices, but cannot afford to in the current economic climate.

Unsurprisingly the outlook in 2008 was much more optimistic than in 2009. 67% of respondents in the current research expect to see a decline in construction demand in 2009/10; in comparison with 2008 when 69% of respondents expected there to be an increase in construction demand. This clearly indicates the impact of the credit crunch on the construction industry, which has affected the mood of the industry as well as the available skills.

As a result of the current downturn, there has been a reduction in the number of people reporting a skills shortage in this years survey; 77% of respondents say there is a skills shortage, whereas 93% felt there was a skills shortage in 2008. This reflects the decline in construction demand, as well as the decline in workforce numbers, yet the results still indicate a skills shortage.

Last year’s reasons for the skills shortage was seen as the construction industry being less attractive than other industries. However, this year job cuts and lack of employment opportunities in construction are the main reasons.


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