The post-Brexit construction industry is facing a shortage of labour and skills.
Depending on which reports you read, European labour makes up 30-50% of construction workers in London and the Southeast. The end of free movement of labour is already having a major effect on numbers and therefore costs.
The solution – replenishing the labour force, and encouraging new people into construction – lies largely within the construction business.
There are some clear pathways the industry can take. Partnering with academic institutions and offering work experience, internships, mentoring schemes and career workshops, as well as site visits to students, all offer first-hand experience and training. These will help shape the workforce of the future, and open the eyes of those who may not have considered a career in construction.
The negative image of the construction industry – as dirty, poorly paid, site-based work – is a constant challenge. But it’s an industry imperative to make young people aware of the almost limitless possibilities of a career in construction, where work can be office or site-based and no two days are the same. Rather than simply dismissing the commonly voiced objections, offering first-hand experience to counter them will help bust some of these myths.
Apprenticeships take the possibilities to the next level
By offering a successful apprenticeship scheme, a business will gain a loyal, qualified and experienced workforce, while future-proofing itself against further skills and labour shortages. At the same time, apprentices acquire meaningful qualifications, including degrees, real life training with industry experts, relevant practical skills and a long-term future career – either within the parent business, or as a sole trader – earning as they learn.
This has been the experience at Axis. The company was founded and is still owned and managed by two brothers who were both bricklaying apprentices. Its apprenticeship scheme has run for over 30 years, and apprentices consistently make up 10% of the workforce.
In 2021, the company interviewed more than 70 applicants for new ‘Apprenticeship Standards’ scheme, which offers longer courses and a new endpoint assessment for apprentices.
But for the best results, apprenticeships should sit alongside wider workplace training
We’ve found that training and developing existing staff also provides a home-grown solution to shortages and helps us anticipate evolving business needs. It provides strong motivation, boosts business performance and improves staff retention.
As staff who are offered regular and up-to-date relevant training get promoted, they gain a career rather than a job. And promoting people from within sets a motivational example and encourages staff to stay and become more involved in the business.
As more people work from home (during and post pandemic) IT solutions that can help employees train and develop away from the office including on video have become a necessity. But whether it’s through one-to-one mentoring or training via external bodies, in-house learning management systems or online tuition, learning new skills provides a sense of achievement, job satisfaction and better mental health in the workforce.
The construction industry has the ability to act on skills – but it needs to do so now to ensure that we have a skilled workforce, fit for the future.
Axis Europe specialises in the improvement and maintenance of Social Housing and Heritage, Public and Commercial properties. Eight core values underpin daily life at Axis. Core Value 3 is ‘Train and develop people, their growth becomes our growth’. A similarly important Axis Axiom is ‘what is good for you is good for us’.