The construction industry is facing a skills shortage

Who is going to build our homes post Brexit?

The health of the construction industry has long been a barometer for the economic health of the nation -  it generates £90 billion towards the economy and employs nearly 3 million professionals.

Of course, depending on which commentator you believe, Brexit will be the making of the construction industry – or it will be the breaking of us.  Let’s take the drama and politics out of the discussion and just consider the facts.

Despite the initial panic immediately after the referendum, most lenders and large developers agree that the market has settled down to pre-Brexit levels.  And, of course, there is no argument about the huge need for new homes, particularly in London and the South East.  However, for whatever reason, those new homes are simply not being built at anywhere near the rate needed.

Planning conditions do play a part here, but one other issue is the skills gap in the construction industry.  Around half of construction labour on London development sites comes from the EU.  Our own experience of transforming The Quant Building, a 1960s-office block in Walthamstow into 60 new apartments, confirms these figures.

There are two concerns, namely, how will the building industry build if they cannot access this workforce, but also, where are all the British workers?

Certainly, in the North West, the majority of our site operatives are British and there are not nearly as many EU workers here as there are down South.  However, it can be a struggle to find qualified staff which suggests that school leavers are not being attracted to the industry and/or there is simply not enough funding for colleges to train the required number of workers.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) acknowledges this skills shortage is making it difficult for the sector to grow. It is up to all of us working in the industry to take responsibility for attracting and training more construction professionals be they home grown or be they from elsewhere around Europe or the world.

The message is clear, there will be no new homes if we don’t have anyone to build them.

Last modified on Wednesday, 12 July 2017 09:17