Report claims recruitment drive and change in approach is needed to solve housing crisis

A massive recruitment drive is needed in the house-building sector if levels of demand are to be met, according to a new report.

Despite growing activity in the residential construction sector, the UK is building significantly fewer homes than those needed. Recent data released by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) shows that 125,110 homes were completed between April 2014 and March 2015. This is an 11% increase on the previous year and represents the highest amount of completions since 2009-2010, but remains well below the 250,000-300,000 many believe are required in the UK.

According to a comprehensive new report released by EC Harris, the strong recovery experienced in the house-building sector so far in 2015 will put a greater strain on resources, particularly labour availability.

Recuritment Drive

?People and money: fundamental to unlocking the housing crisis’ estimates that the house-building industry currently employs around 165,000 site workers, as well as a further 50,000 supervisors, managers and administrators. It says ramping up the industry to deliver a further 80,000 units will require a further 120,000 workers, as well as replace those expected to retire from the sector in the next ten years.

This also falls under the skills shortages of the wider construction industry, which according to the report needs to find around one million new people. However, this is felt particularly in the house-building sector, as ?the sector’s need for some specialist skills is so high, that even with the whole construction workforce as a source of manpower, there could still be a constraint.’

The EC Harris report therefore claims that house-builders cannot rely on the existing pool of construction labour, so the expansion of the workforce will be crucial. Training will play a key role, either in topping up existing skills, or by developing new entrants with no skills or experience. Unfortunately, data on numbers of trainees joining the industry points to a weak pipeline of talent – construction attracted fewer than 20,000 first-year trainees in 2013 – and this is even more dire for the house-building sector, which the report claims is not structured to support investment in training and skills development.

Mark Farmer, head of development at EC Harris, said: “We need to think seriously about how we fully enable, at a national level, the development, investment and construction sectors to work together for mutual benefit to radically solve the housing crisis by doubling its output.

“As the industry is currently structured, existing business models make this impossible.”

The report goes on to suggest that new sources of skills and capacity need to be found, such as through housing associations which can access a completely different market of contractors 
and sub-contractors. It also suggests changing building methods, such as the promotion of pre-fabricated construction techniques, could ease labour constraints.

However, it is felt these would only postpone tackling the issue, and so the EC Harris report calls for a change in focus to ?people and money rather than land and planning’ to solve the crisis.

Mr.  Farmer added: “This is now about the need for fresh, radical thinking from both industry and Government, which respects the existing house-building model but also seeks out viable routes to large-scale, additional delivery.”

To read ?People and money: fundamental to unlocking the housing crisis’ in full, click here.

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