The UK’s construction industry is an essential sector for the country’s economy, providing jobs, infrastructure, and a backbone for many related industries. As with many sectors, it is experiencing a wave of change. Partly driven by technology and innovative construction methods, and more recently, exacerbated by the UK’s exit from the European Union. This article sheds light on the crucial skills and trades that the construction industry currently needs and discusses how Brexit has influenced the workforce, making the training of local talent indispensable.
1. Essential Skills and Trades in the UK Construction Sector
The construction industry is diverse, with a vast array of roles. Some of the most in-demand skills and trades currently include:
Bricklaying: Despite technological advancements, bricklaying remains a core skill in construction. Mastering this trade is vital for the foundational aspects of many buildings making the availability of bricklaying courses crucial for the success of the country’s construction industry.
Carpentry and Joinery: From structural work to interiors, skilled carpenters and joiners are always in demand to create and install wooden structures and fittings.
Plumbing and Heating: With increasingly sophisticated heating and water systems, expert plumbers are essential.
Electricians: As buildings get smarter and more integrated with technology, the need for certified electricians continues to grow.
Site Management: Organising and overseeing projects, ensuring timelines are met and standards are maintained, is a crucial role.
Quantity Surveying: Professionals in this trade manage costs and contracts, ensuring projects remain within budget.
Plant Operation: Those trained to operate construction machinery, from cranes to diggers, are always in demand.
Civil Engineering: This trade encompasses the design, construction, and maintenance of the built environment, including roads, bridges, and buildings.
2. The Brexit Effect
Brexit has had a profound impact on the UK’s labour market, and the construction industry has been no exception. Here’s how:
Labour Shortage: The UK construction industry heavily relied on EU labour, especially from Eastern European countries. With the end of freedom of movement post-Brexit, many of these workers either chose or were forced to return to their home countries. This led to a significant shortage of skilled workers in the industry.
Increased Costs: The post-Brexit landscape also resulted in increased import costs for materials, which in turn affected construction budgets.
Project Delays: Labour shortages and material cost surges have led to delays in many construction projects, adding to the costs and logistical challenges.
3. The Imperative for Training
Given the current scenario, it has become clear that the UK needs to invest more in training its populace in construction-related trades. This involves:
Apprenticeship Schemes: Companies and the government should focus on creating more apprenticeship opportunities for young people, offering them hands-on training.
Vocational Training: Institutions should be encouraged to offer courses catering to the current needs of the construction industry. Specialist training centres already exist that offer constuction training courses, of course, but there is certainly a need to expand the number of these and the range of courses that they offer.
Skill Upgrade Programs: For those already in the industry, regular training programs can help in upskilling and staying updated with the latest techniques and technologies.
The UK’s construction industry stands at a pivotal point. With the challenges posed by Brexit, it’s more crucial than ever to focus on home-grown talent and ensure that the sector continues to thrive. Investing in training and education is not just a need – it’s a strategic imperative for the country’s future.