The news that construction will be part of the first three initial T-Levels to be developed by government is welcome, as while the industry outlook is optimistic, the skills gap is arguably at its worst
It is correct that now is the time to tackle the skills chasm in the UK jobs market head-on. At Hays we have consistently warned of a widening skills gap across the country as employers tell us they are struggling to match the vacancies they have with the available workforce. If we couple this with the uncertainty surrounding leaving the EU, and access to European labour, it’s a particular cause for concern.
At a time when businesses must be encouraging a sustained recovery as we move towards leaving the European Union, the need to demonstrate a fully functioning and productive workforce is more important than ever before. Positively, there isn’t a shortage of projects and construction activity taking place or in the pipeline in the UK, and we need a strong talent pipeline to support this.
The reality is that we are not likely to see the predicted outcome of this welcome initiative for least five years
The long term impact of investing in vocational training will hopefully be to create a generation of young workers with valuable and employable skills to flourish in the industry. This will ultimately pave the way towards closing our current skills gap and improving productivity.
However, the reality is that we are not likely to see the predicted outcome of this welcome initiative for least five years. The need to address our current skills gap is immediate, meaning another solution is also needed while the younger generation is being trained.
The short term solution to this problem is for the government to appreciate and commit to the importance of skilled migration. The construction industry needs talent from overseas and to overlook the very real need for skilled workers negates any efforts by the government to increase productivity. We need policies that allow businesses to source talent and fill existing roles, regardless of nationality. This is particularly pertinent to the construction industry, which has long relied on a mobile workforce from overseas.
T-Levels will equip the younger generation with vocational careers in the construction industry, demonstrating a programme that has been developed specifically with employers in mind
Despite this, T-Levels are an excellent opportunity to generate a coherent dialogue between business and schools, and if successful, they will help address future skills shortages. By ensuring robust qualifications and measurable targets are in place, T-Levels will equip the younger generation with vocational careers in the construction industry, demonstrating a programme that has been developed specifically with employers in mind.
The training plans to address construction from a broad perspective, as well as drill down into specialism detail, and provide students will placements so they can apply their learning in the workplace which is particularly important. For students, having the opportunity to learn and demonstrate skills to potential employers, not only allows employers to envisage and secure their future workforce, it also means students can quickly transition from studying to direct employment.
It’s a pertinent time for change and presents another chance to encourage a diverse range of people into the construction industry, from all backgrounds and genders. We want to be seen to be leading change in the construction industry, and being creative in fixing our skills gap.