The government is doing construction a favour by raising the retirement age to 65, but Jeremy Hilliard, director of National Contracting, says the skills shortage can only be addressed by attracting more young people to building.

New proposals to crack down on age discrimination announced by the Government will offer only a short-term solution to the industry skills shortage.

While at first glance the proposal to raise the set retirement age to 65 could help to retain valuable construction skills for a little while longer, it will not help to address the skills shortage in the longer term.

The industry needs to attract close to 400,000 skilled workers by 2007 just to keep step with forecast industry growth and this level of demand will not be met by retaining older workers alone.

Tarmac’s Skills for Life is an initiative designed to challenge perceptions of the industry and encourage young people to take up training opportunities and apprenticeships where they exist. It is this kind of awareness-raising campaign that will help to develop the skills base in a more sustainable way.

There is clearly a need to attract young people to train for construction industry jobs, but recent research commissioned by Tarmac reveals that older people are in fact keener than young people to work in construction. 31% of people over the age of 55 said they would consider working in the construction industry, compared with just 30% of 16 – 24 year olds. 45 - 54 year olds were most likely to say they would consider a construction job.

We should not ignore the willingness of older people to train for construction industry jobs and amid an ageing population it will be important for employers to find new ways of utilising their skills in the future.

Jeremy Hilliard, is leader of its Skills for Life initiative