Thanks to the touting of numerous green policies and the debate over the practicality or indeed feasibility of zero carbon development, environmental issues continue to dominate discussion across construction trade press. This emphasis is something to be celebrated, but we must be conscious of other, equally pressing, issues that are affecting our industry’s performance.

The most significant of these is the skills shortage. It’s possible to argue that it is futile to be looking to effect any significant environmental change until the necessary manpower is available to deliver on basic industry demands.

A recent survey published by the Chartered Institute of Building revealed that 72% of respondents expected the demand for construction to increase over the coming year and they would not be able to recruit enough skilled workers to meet it. More importantly, 68% of these respondents felt that the existing workforce was not sufficiently skilled.

The influx of migrant workers has helped to ease the shortage of labourers, but recruitment at this level is no longer such a problem – it is skilled, managerial staff that are desperately required.

For this, businesses must begin looking beyond recruitment concerns to their training and development obligations. By making this an integral part of overall business plans in the form of initiatives such as mentoring schemes, or by proportioning a part of the company’s turnover to employees’ college fees or training costs, staff are made to feel valued and supported in their career progression.

Aiding and encouraging the development of your company’s employees will not only help to combat the chronic lack of managerial level staff but will foster staff loyalty and have a quantifiable impact on staff retention rates. It’s a simple approach but one that has the potential to make a long-term difference to the industry’s lack of skilled workers.

Stephen Gee, managing partner, John Rowan & Partners