Over a quarter of a million extra construction workers may be needed by 2026, according to the latest Construction Skills Network report. That’s over 53,000 new recruits per year for the next five years!

Published annually by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), the report looks into the UK’s construction economy and makes key predictions about what will happen in terms of labour/ skills needs over the coming years.

Here are more details of what this year’s report had to say plus what it means for the sector and our region.

Increased demand

Looking at a five-year period (2022 – 2026), the report predicts that demand will soar most noticeably within the private housing, infrastructure and repair and maintenance sectors.

To keep up with this demand, the total construction workforce will need to rise to a whopping 2.78 million workers by 2026, meaning the industry will have to attract 266,000 workers (53,200 each year) between now and then.

Although growth is expected across the UK, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the key predictions for the two regions where Sheriff Construction mostly operates.

Greater London:

  • Annual average growth rate: 3.4%
  • Extra workers needed by 2026: 26,000
  • Annual recruitment requirement: 5,200
  • Main growth drivers: +£1bn Thamesmead, £7bn Brent Cross Town and £5bn Old Oak Park long term developments

East of England:

  • Annual average growth rate: 3.8%
  • Extra workers needed by 2026: 24,600
  • Annual recruitment requirement: 4,920
  • Main growth drivers: £1.4bn A14 upgrade and East Anglia Hub wind farms

The challenge ahead

The construction sector is now facing a major challenge in terms of being able to recruit, train and retain the talent it requires. For the job roles that are expected to experience the highest demand, that could be especially difficult. These include carpenters/ joiners, construction managers, a range of technical roles (e.g. electronics technicians, civil engineering technicians, estimators and valuers), plus office-based support staff.

The Chief Executive Officer of the CITB,  Tim Balcon, commented:

“Construction is vital in supporting the backbone of the UK economy. These future growth projections are encouraging after the stalling effects of the pandemic. However, this is set against a current backdrop of higher energy costs, material shortages, and associated price inflation that is currently hitting companies across the sector.    

“Recruitment and developing a highly skilled workforce will be by far the construction industry’s biggest challenges over the next five years. However, the industry has a lot to offer and needs to use its many strengths to attract and retain top talent in a competitive recruitment landscape”. 

So what next?

After the pandemic slowed things down, 2021 saw big increases in construction vacancies. However, this was set alongside a trend of fewer EU nationals in the construction workforce and a more constrained migration policy, resulting in many of those vacancies being hard to fill. With that trend set to continue, the report states:

“Recruiting workers will be a major task and means construction employers will need to refresh the way they recruit. Employing fully skilled workers is unlikely to meet the expected shortfall because, the workers aren’t available; they have left industry through retirement, emigration, or choice.”

Suggestions for how construction companies might rethink recruitment and overcome skills-shortages include:

  • Reaching out to skilled workers who have left the industry to get them back into construction. This would be either those who have left to work in other industries or those that have become unemployed or inactive.
  • Attracting new entrants into the workforce from those leaving school, further education, apprenticeships, or higher education.
  • Improving the retention of workers within the industry.
  • Looking at how productivity can be improved.

The CITB is also looking at a range of actions that will help to support construction companies to invest in training, with plans for a renewed focus on Apprenticeships (helping the industry to make up some of the ground that was lost during the pandemic) and rolling out occupational Traineeships in further education.

Tell us what you think could be done by commenting over on our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.


Feature image: Freepik