Addressing the building envelope skills shortage

May 13th, 2014 Posted in: Lakesmere

The recently published cross-parliamentary inquiry report entitled ‘No More Lost Generations – Creating construction jobs for young people’ made for interesting yet disturbing reading, particularly as many of the issues raised are all too familiar.   How long has the industry talked amongst itself about the need for apprentices and the threat of a widespread skill shortage? Now it would seem the time for talking is over but many, particularly in the specialist contractor sector, will be wondering what action to take. 

The construction industry covers a wide range of skills and yet it’s fair to say that the general public’s understanding of the specialist trades is somewhat limited.  How much does the average school leaver really know about the building envelope or specialist facade market?  Improving awareness and educating young people on the range of potential careers available is vital if we are to attract new talent to the specialist contractor sector. Offering unpaid work experience could achieve this and yet the report showed that is not something routinely taken up by construction businesses. 

Another issue is the need to ensure that young people receive relevant training or apprenticeships, with a greater link between the work experience given and the type of job that they may ultimately gain. However the industry is not simply in need of more traditional apprenticeship schemes but instead a total attitude change towards how we attract, nurture and ultimately retain new construction workers. For our part, Lakesmere has developed its own School to Work scheme, allowing us to work directly with local colleges to offer students practical, structured work experience plus a bespoke, independently accredited Lakesmere Diploma qualification in a range of disciplines relevant to our services, helping us create ‘work-ready’ employment candidates.

As the specialist subcontractor market is particularly vulnerable to the problems caused by the skills shortage, with the building envelope sector already feeling the pinch, it’s also important not to ignore the pool of talent that is already available. It has been well documented that there is a lack of women working in construction and the specialist sector needs to shake of its male-dominated image and raise awareness of the range of careers available.  The industry has fortunately developed enough to show that women are just as capable as men on the construction site but the specialist sector is more than just a manual trade and the career opportunities off site are perhaps where we need to focus our attention.

By offering a flexible working policy and investing in continual staff training and professional development, specialist contractors like Lakesmere have recruited a number of highly skilled women to take on roles across a wide variety of disciplines including, design, sales estimating and marketing.  Small steps such as these can lead to big changes in the way the specialist sector is perceived by potential employees.

Specialist contractors are just that; specialists, experts in their chosen fields and quite often some of the most innovative companies within the construction industry and now is the time to fly the flag for our sector to ensure that we attract the best talent the next generation has to offer.

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