Where did all the builders go?

There’s a crisis in the construction industry. We’ve lost a generation of skilled workers and Brexit has led to many skilled European construction professionals leaving the UK. Chris Bartlett, Head of Projects and Programmes, looks at what needs to be done to fix the crisis.

Last month the Government released a report stating that the cap on the number of high-skilled migrants coming to the UK should be scrapped.

It’s a hugely important issue because the future of European workers in Britain, and the implications of ending their freedom of movement, is a major concern to the construction industry.

At Radian, I work closely with our land and delivery teams to make sure we have a realistic pipeline of homes. We’ve committed to building more than ever before and you only have to look at our recent housing completions to see our direction of travel – this year we’re aiming to build 600 new homes, which follows 562 and 418 in the two preceding years.

Building homes at this scale will put us at the same delivery levels as many medium sized private housebuilders. If we are to build successfully then we need a quality workforce and a strong supply chain behind us, and this is where the problem lies.


It’s not EU it’s us

With our future relationship with the European Union still undecided, many skilled European construction professionals are leaving the market.

Availability of suitable land, which has long been our greatest challenge, is quickly being replaced by the challenge of finding skilled people to build homes. Site by site we are at risk of losing more skills, especially as wages in Europe become more attractive because of the weak performance of the pound.

What frustrates me the most is the industry and successive governments have not done enough to train people with the necessary skills to plug the shortage, preferring to encourage young people in to university rather than down the vocational route. The knock-on effect is that we’ve lost a generation of skilled workers in the construction industry.


Training for the future

We must be doing everything that we can through skills and training to equip our workforce. It’s great to see major construction companies are already playing their part, such as Galliford Try Partnerships, who recently launched an on-site construction skills academy.

Whilst the skills shortage is undoubtedly a challenge to the industry, it’s also a fantastic opportunity because we can bring forward a new generation of skilled workers. But this can only be done by working together as an industry to help provide a solution and with national government to put in place policies to make sure this can happen.