Can Innovation in Construction Address the Skill Shortage?

February 14, 2018

As everyone in the construction industry is aware there is currently a chronic skills shortage that is affecting the productivity of projects in the UK. Factors such as Brexit and falling apprenticeship numbers are likely only to make the problem worse in years to come. A large contributing factor to the skills shortage is the industry’s problem with attracting young talent. The sector has an aging workforce and a rising rate of retirement, with almost one quarter of the workforce above 50 and 15% in their 60s, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Construction has had somewhat of an image problem amongst young people. The industry can be seen as a more manual outdoors industry which is lower skilled for people who don’t pursue further education. This is a perception that is far from the reality of the construction industry. In 2016, CITB’s Report indicates that only 35% of young people considered a career in construction, although it is promising to see this figure climb to 59% in 2017, there is still a long way to go.

The rise of technological innovation in the construction industry could potentially impact the sector’s image to younger generations. Technology is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the UK, and one that attracts a number of graduates. Emergent technologies such as 3D printing, drones, artificial intelligence, robotics and augmented reality are changing the construction sector, and as their popularity grows so will the volume of young talent drawn to those technologies.

With a growing number of mega-projects: High Speed Two (HS2), Crossrail, Crossrail2 and the expansion to Heathrow to name a few, it is clear the demand for skilled labour will only increase. We are seeing signs of the industry moving towards a smarter, more innovative and efficient future and we need to prioritise training, attracting and retaining talent. Innovation may have the potential to positively impact the skills shortage, but more importantly the workforce is considered the most crucial element to innovation success, highlighted in the 2018 Global Innovation Barometer.

James Wilson
Business Development

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