As we head towards the General Election in May, it is imperative that all political parties make a commitment to infrastructure in order to boost confidence within the UK construction sector and to help employers to plan ahead to develop the skills they need, writes Steve Radley, CITB’s Director of Policy and Strategic Planning.
The recent release of CITB’s Construction Skills Network (CSN) report heralds some positive news for the future of the UK construction industry. The annual forecast predicts that there will be a strong period of output growth in the next four years – up 2.9%, on average, year-on-year – and the need for over 200,000 more skilled construction workers by 2019.
This year’s forecast is certainly welcome news for an industry that’s had its fair share of challenges since the downturn. However, what’s important now is that the industry and Government work collaboratively to make good on the positive predictions.
The industry faces a battle to train and attract skilled workers. As the CSN predicts, the need for over 200,000 new recruits by 2019, Industry and Government will need to work in partnership to develop the skills they need to deliver their growing order books but also to raise their game with higher productivity, reduced costs and faster delivery times.
Furthermore, the industry needs to ensure the right skills are being produced in the right places – particularly as the CSN report predicts growth in all UK regions, not just in London and the South East.
With this in mind, CITB is looking at the 2015 General Election as an opportunity to put construction firmly on the political agenda. We are calling on all political parties to commit to the delivery of the National Infrastructure Plan which has the potential to create jobs and growth across the industry.
In fact, a commitment of this type from those at Westminster would renew confidence within the sector and allow contractors to look at the ‘bigger picture’ when it comes to skills development and the necessary training to create a workforce capable of delivering the projects of tomorrow.
Apprenticeships also need to be high on the political agenda come May 2015. By giving further commitments to this form of vocational training, and making it easier for employers of all sizes to take apprentices on, the next Government could make construction one of its flagship industries for young people.
Based on the positive forecasts of the CSN report, contractors, Government and other industry stakeholders must see this as an opportunity to create a truly world class industry – one which has a breadth and depth of skilled workers. The CSN report highlights just how strongly construction has bounced back after the recession. But to ensure that the projected growth is achieved up to 2019 and beyond, now is the time to put construction at the heart of the political agenda.