As a Recruitment Consultant I hear the words "Skills shortage" banded about every day on every imaginable platform. It occurs to me that what I don't hear a great deal about is why? This is why I thought I would try and shed some light on the causes that I believe have created the ever increasing skills gap within the construction industry.
Now I know allot of you will be thinking that it's obviously the fact we as a country are currently recovering from a major recession... And you would be correct... There were a lot of things that we as an industry failed on during the recession to ready ourselves for the inevitable recovery... After all as al lot of you old-school types will remember there were huge skills shortage way before the recession hit back in 2008.
I believe that the main thing at the heart of this shortage is the ever changing entry level requirements to work out on site. These changes are nearly always due to improving health and safety out on site. Don't get me wrong I'm a huge advocate of ensuring workers aren't a liability to themselves and everyone else working around them, but what I’m not an advocate of is that fact these changes are becoming a big money making business for the likes of CITB, Training providers and even the government in some cases. Some of you will know only too well how much it costs to put yourself through a CPCS course to allow you to operate plant out on site, those of you who don't the average price for digger ticket at the moment is around £2000 and a crane ticket is about £3000. To some this may not seem like a great deal of money for a career, but for these types of people who live week by week saving £2000 - £3000 may not be a viable option.
The other adverse effect that health and safety has on impacting the skills shortage is the fact that due to the strict restrictions on site even once they have their CPCS Trained operator card (Red Card) finding people who are willing/can take on less experienced operators is proving more and more difficult. What the industry seems to forget is that CPCS Competent Operator’s (Blue card) who are looking for work are extremely rare. Putting aside the initial cost of upgrading the card the reasons for this is people either let their CPCS tickets expire during the recession because the work wasn’t there so they couldn’t justify the cost of renewal or that they never got the chance to get the hours logged. This is where the industry really tripped up in the recession because we chose to increase training costs and employ only experienced operators during the dark 7 or so years following 2008; After all they were 100 a penny back then!
I believe that as an industry we will never be able to close this skill’s gap unless we address these issues. We need to act and we need to act fast before it starts causing even more issues within the industry. We need to reduce training costs, we need to find ways to entice and support people who are new to the industry and we need to give the next generation of construction workers the best possible chance of upskilling and cementing their career in construction. I fear that if we don’t the effects of this skills shortage will almost certainly be a potential cause and possible major factor of the inevitable slowdown of growth.