No surprise in results of UKCES employer skills survey, says BSRIA, but plenty to cause concern

Construction and building services association BSRIA has said it is not “wholly surprised” at the findings of a survey that has revealed the extent to which the construction industry is struggling to recruit people with the skills it needs.

Nonetheless, the organisation expressed concern at the findings of the UK Commissions for Employment & Skills (UKCES) Employer Skills Survey (ESS) 2015. The results revealed that employers are struggling to fill one in three vacancies, up from one in four in 2013.

The report highlights that the area of “real concern” is skills shortages faced by the construction sector – which contributes almost £90bn to the UK economy, over a million jobs, and is strategically important in its contribution to housing, infrastructure and initiatives to stimulate UK growth.

Skills-shortage vacancies affect the bottom line, BSRIA said.

“BSRIA acknowledges that the construction industry is facing heightened difficulties in recruiting staff with this worrying statistics,” said Julia Evans, chief executive of BSRIA. “The Employer Skills Survey is a vital source of data on skills and the labour market. At a micro-level, these factors may be damaging for the business; at a macro-level, they could be damaging for the UK economy and hamper the sustainability of UK economic growth.”

The increase in the number of skills-shortage vacancies since 2013 presents “cause for concern”, when construction sector employers were the most likely to cite a loss of business or orders to competitors resulting from skills-shortage vacancies.

The report said that skills-shortage vacancies were caused by a number of people and personal skills and technical and practical skills lacking among applicants. Skills related to operational aspects of the role, as well as complex analytical skills, were the main technical and practical skills lacking.

Evans added: “[The] Government has launched a consultation with a major review of the construction labour market: the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) will review what the skills the construction industry needs to provide the homes the nation needs. BSRIA welcomes such consultation and has issued a separate statement.

“But, in its statement, Government is ‘requesting the construction industry to remove barriers to get more young people to consider careers in construction and develop an ambitious plan to address the skills pressures and other constraints that are limiting housebuilding and infrastructure development’. Skills Minister Nick Boles said that the government is ‘committed to getting Britain building and are investing in measures to cut red tape and increase the number of young people doing apprenticeships and traineeships to ensure we have a pipeline of skilled workers’.

“What industry needs is for government to promote the STEM subjects as early as possible in schools to make construction and engineering as attractive as possible for the future workforce.

“It is also ironic when an ‘immigration charge’ of £1,000 a year on employing skilled workers from outside the EU was recommended last week by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) hitting a sector that is already suffering from chronic skills shortages. This is a nonsense.”

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