Four ways to attract top-tier talent in the construction industry

Credit: AdobeStock/Monkey Business
Credit: AdobeStock/Monkey Business

With the UK’s construction industry facing an alarmingly severe shortage of workers, building equipment manufacturer Niftylift gives fours tips on how the sector can attract new talent.

Despite being heavily impacted in recent years, the UK’s construction industry has bounced back quickly, reaching pre-pandemic output levels. The opportunities lie in abundance, from large infrastructure projects to housing and retrofitting old buildings to meet zero-carbon targets.

However, UK’s construction industry is facing an alarmingly severe shortage of workers – an issue only compounded by a demographic shift.

Projections indicate that a quarter of a million extra workers will need to be recruited by 2026 to keep up with the growing demands of the UK sector. But a recent report from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) suggests that 83% of construction companies struggle to recruit staff.

Two factors can be blamed for this: The number of people exiting the profession continues to rise. Most construction workers lie between 50-56, 400,000 of whom could retire in the next five years. The sector will lose its most experienced and skilled workers shortly. Secondly, statistics from the ONS reveal that despite growth in the sector, the number of hours worked by 16-29-year-olds has remained consistent. This suggests that as well as losing older workers, not enough young people are taking up careers within the construction industry. The drop in overseas workers has also had a knock-on effect.

Considering this, Niftylift has looked at the four key measures that can help attract top-tier talent:

Improve training

In a survey from KPMG that asked organisations how to overcome talent shortages, more than 50% of respondents said that increasing skills and training was vital.

For potential and existing employees, there are several benefits to enhancing both hard and soft skills. Continuous training and development can help harbour employee confidence that the company is genuinely invested in them, enhancing their motivation, trust, and loyalty. It also means that employers will be able to benefit from the all-important skills that are currently lacking within the construction industry.

According to one recent survey, 56% of 18-29-year-olds find the prospect of a career within construction ‘attractive’ – which places greater importance on establishing more accessible pathways for young people to take up jobs in construction.

The Construction Support Partnership is one such programme, which aims to offer mentoring, support and training to those starting in construction or returning to the industry. Apprenticeships are also increasing in popularity, with 2021/22’s intake up 14.1% on the previous year. Degree apprenticeships are also becoming more widely available, rising in England and Wales from 1,000 in 2017 to 6,000 in 2021.

Prioritise the company culture

From high workloads to long hours, a variety of pressure-inducing factors impact workers in the construction industry. One recent survey from Mates In Mind found that nearly a third of construction workers experience heightened levels of anxiety every day. The stigma prevalent within the construction industry can mean that these issues go unspoken, negatively impacting morale, productivity, and the overall culture.

This can be tackled by focusing on well-being through education, training, and an open and honest work culture that encourages employees to approach their managers if they are struggling rather than staying quiet. In addition to improving the existing workplace environment, doing so can enhance a company’s appeal to prospective employees.

Workplace safety

On the other side, it’s also vital to prioritise workplace safety. According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), construction has much higher rates of workplace injuries when compared to other industries. Worries about safety and manual labour can be vital in putting people off careers within the construction industry, so it’s essential to tackle these with rigorous health and safety practices.

A primary way of doing this is by minimising the amount of physical effort required from workers. For example, powered access platforms can be a much safer replacement for manual tools like ladders and scaffolding.

Partner with educational institutions to subsidise training

Collaborating with academic institutions can help provide apprenticeships or funded vocational training programs to ensure hands-on experience and training for aspiring construction workers. This can set the pace for the next crop of construction workers who aim to join the industry but are held back by financial constraints.

The skills gap will inevitably continue to present challenges to businesses operating in the construction industry. But robust human resource planning coupled with automation led by A.I. and measures aligned with a people-first policy can reverse the tide and resolve the talent shortage.

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