By Philip Fergusson, Managing Director of NCTS, training specialists for the roofing industry.
With Brexit negotiations only at the ‘beginning of the beginning’ stage according to news reports, the UK’s EU departure is having an effect on the construction industry. A report published by the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) found that UK businesses are already finding it harder to recruit skilled staff, particularly in the engineering sector, as a result of net migration falls in the wake of Brexit. This once again throws into sharp focus a need to address the current construction skills shortage among the UK workforce.
According to recent reports, the UK construction industry will need approximately 400,000 new workers every year until 2021 to meet the demand for new building projects. In the roofing industry some experts are predicting that we will have a shortfall of some 100,000 skilled crafts people over that period and every trade sector is reporting a similar story.
More skilled hands are required to solve the country’s current construction shortfall, but are fears of a post-Brexit Britain sending engineers of all stripes scurrying overseas? In November 2017, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report found net migration to the UK had plummeted by more than 100,000 – the largest decline since records began – in the year following the EU referendum. A figure made all the more significant by the revelation that 8% of the UK’s construction workers, which equates to 176,500 people, are EU nationals. Little wonder, then, more than half of Britain’s construction workers are reportedly ‘concerned’ by the prospect of a skills shortage. Justifiably, perhaps, when it’s anticipated output from the UK construction market will flourish throughout 2018.
With ‘divorce’ from Europe looming, there’s little doubt the UK cannot solely rely on importing engineering skills – as valuable as they are – to bolster its building trade. So where is hope on the horizon? NCTS is working towards a solution to help educate young people to the many benefits of a career in one of construction’s most important strands – roofing.
Committed to providing an outstanding level of training across all the sector’s disciplines, NCTS is working with the CITB, trade federations and manufacturers to encourage more young people to take up apprenticeships. The company is also looking at ways of attracting more funding to allow this to happen at a national level.
Inspiring the next generation to take-up a career in construction, particularly roofing, is crucial to filling the current skills gap long-term. It also requires changing people’s perception of the industry. For instance, The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) recently asked a group of 14 to 19-year-olds which careers interested them – construction scored a tiny 4.2 out of 10. According to the survey, young people claimed that construction means ‘being outdoors and getting dirty’.’
It appears the workforce of tomorrow – more than 50% at least – view construction as a non-academic profession that clearly doesn’t fit with their idea of what a fulfilling, exciting, well-paid, career should look like. It is why NCTS offers a variety of professional training courses designed to fit with an array of needs and skill levels to educate candidates and create an environment for them to thrive – rather than simply survive – in the roofing sector.
Our expert assessors carry out site visits, delivering detailed reports on the skills and industry knowledge on show to help improve workplace performance. An NCTS course can lead to an NVQ level 2 qualification, opening-up a world of opportunity for young roofers, as it enables them to work on any site in the UK.
With adversity, comes opportunity. The current skills shortage means there has never been a better time to consider a career in construction – the industry needs you. With more new houses and infrastructure needed than ever before, a reported two-thirds of surveyors admit a lack of skilled workers is threatening to prevent that requirement being fulfilled. If the question, ‘why should I take-up a career in roofing or other construction sectors?’ arises, the NCTS reply would be simple: ‘why would you not want to?’
The industry has so much to offer. Today’s youngsters have it in their hands to shape the world we inherit tomorrow – their knowledge and skills are paramount to progress. A job in construction can be very-well paid, but its value to the living and working environment is priceless. At NCTS, we believe by reconstructing people’s view of roofing, engineering and the like as a desirable career choice, the necessary education and training we provide will go some way to cementing the industry skills gap – the most urgent of all UK building projects.