Surging wage inflation, record job vacancies and desperate employers poaching staff. Never has the need to address construction’s skills crisis been more urgent. Building invites you to be part of its Every Person Counts coverage, giving voice to some of the solutions

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Construction firms are in a battle for talent. They are not just competing with rivals – often desperately poaching key staff with inflated salaries – they are also coming up against most other sectors in the UK economy as they find that the number of overall workers has shrunk in these post pandemic and post Brexit days.

Alarming labour shortage figures are not confined to construction; pick any of the industry’s big rivals for workers – IT, finance, retail, hospitality and logistics – and you will find record high vacancy rates.

For construction, which had almost got used to a chronic skills shortage, the current recruitment crunch for a whole host of blue- and white-collar roles feels different, and it is causing real pain. A typical company we spoke to said it was having to turn down work because it does not have suitably qualified and experienced people to deliver what clients need.

If ever bosses were tempted to consider HR as a fluffy issue that could be largely ignored, few would admit to thinking that now. Recruitment is commonly reported as a priority for businesses and, as one boss told us, it should be everyone’s number one priority because without the right people none of the industry’s other strategic goals – such as digital transformation, MMC or net zero carbon – are going to be possible.

The situation has become so severe that most bosses recognise the importance of doing something. But possibly there is less agreement over how best to implement change.

The next generation coming through to the jobs market, however, have some non-negotiatiables. They expect more from employers

For all these reasons we need to talk about construction’s “people problem” – and how to solve it. That is why we have launched Every Person Counts, where we dig into these issues, channel some of the debates and provide a platform for best practice.

Construction is brimming with ideas around everything from reforming education and training to promoting diversity and inclusion. Every discipline or trade seems to have its own initiative to attract new entrants. But the fragmented nature of the industry, with its complex supply chains and multiple trade bodies, means that it can be hard to get a handle on the bigger picture.

A year ago the Construction Leadership Council started a big piece of work when it launched its Industry Skills Plan. It sets out to transform the skills base across this wide and varied industry to match the demands of a rapidly modernising market. 

Coming up with a high-level plan – drawn up by the industry itself and with government backing – was a crucial step. Our coverage will focus on how this plan and others are being implemented on the ground. We will be talking to individuals, companies and organisations about how they are targeting efforts, the hurdles they face and what progress is being made.

Our coverage will aim to provide a spotlight for those who are leading the way, and over the coming months we will be talking to forward-thinking bosses, training experts, HR practitioners and many more about all things relating to skills. 

But also we know that there are pockets of the industry where employment practices are behind the times, and where we see it we will challenge poor behaviour. Construction complains of having an image problem based on unfair perceptions – that it’s all muddy boots and a laddish culture – and a recent CITB report provides some evidence that outsiders do take a dim view of the industry as a career option.

It is also possible that some of those perceptions are based on real-life experiences of everything from poor working conditions to discrimination. It is easy to push out a corporate message stating that people are a firm’s biggest asset; it is much harder to implement progressive HR policies, make them stick and bring about real change.



The next generation coming through to the jobs market, however, have some non-negotiatiables. They expect more from employers, not just financially but in terms of flexible working arrangements, the promotion of wellbeing, training opportunities and access to senior management.

They also want an employer that can offer a career with purpose, such as tackling the climate crisis, and where values around diversity and inclusion are actively promoted.

We anticipate that a big talking point in our coverage – in addition to skills and training – will be company culture, and the need for many to undertake a huge shift in their mindset.

We kick off on International Women’s Day – a highlight in the calendar for promoting diversity – with a piece about a recently established mentoring scheme matching women at the start of their careers with those who are now in senior positions. This is one of those initiatives that started off very small-scale, has taken off rapidly and appears to be having a positive impact.

And tomorrow we will be taking a deep dive into the effects of the pandemic on the jobs market, with some initial views from industry figures on what the current skills crisis means for businesses.

But that is just the beginning. We want you to be part of an ongoing discussion and over the coming weeks and months we will be providing different ways for you to get involved.

For now, we are asking you to post on social media updates about your companies’ employment initiatives. We are asking you to use #everypersoncounts on your posts and we will collate the best in our follow-up coverage.

Let’s share the industry’s best solutions and help to ensure that every person working in construction really feels that they do count.

Chloe McCulloch is Building’s editor

Every Person Counts

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Our Every Person Counts coverage, which we are launching on International Women’s Day, aims to provide a place where debates about skills, employment and workplace culture can play out and solutions can be shared.

We know the construction industry has no shortage of suggestions for tackling the skills crisis. From reforming apprenticeships, to offering more flexibility, to increasing diversity, to providing better pathways from education to the workplace. We will be picking up on all  these themes in more depth in future articles. 

If you have an employment initiative you want to tell us about, email us at with the subject line “Every Person Counts”. You can also contact us via Twitter @BuildingNews and LinkedIn @BuildingMagazine, please use the hashtag #everypersoncounts. We look forward to hearing your employment stories.