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Report reveals construction skills shortages

May 2021

New research into the extent of the skills shortage has found that 83% of businesses within the construction industry are currently feeling the strain from a lack of skilled workers.

“Three-quarters of businesses are impacted by skill shortages – an issue that is costing UK businesses £6.3 billion per year in temporary staff and training for workers who are not as experienced as required,” notes Richard Vickers, CEO, Search Recruitment Group.  “The skills gap isn’t a problem that is going away without substantial effort and it is certainly not one we can ignore.  It’s fair to say that the skills shortage is not a new phenomenon; however, it has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Amidst the issue, organisations are forced to adopt new, often remote, business practices that have further widened the skills gap. In fact, in the latest KMPG post-COVID survey, 62% of people said the skills shortage is preventing their organisation from keeping up with the pace of change required to be successful.”

“Further to this, almost three-quarters of HR professionals (72%) ranked reskilling employees as one of the most important paths to shaping the workforce. Despite this, only one-third said this would be easy to implement.”

“To support the businesses we work with that may be experiencing issues due to the skills gap, Search Consultancy has looked at multiple sectors within UK business and has determined the primary causes, contributors and potential solutions to the challenge. We have also discussed these findings with key business leaders in their respective fields and shared these insights in the Search Skills Gap Report,” concludes  Vickers.

The report found that, on average, businesses in the industry are 22% understaffed with the average lead time to hire a suitable candidate standing at just below four months.  The full list, which ranks sectors from most to least affected by the skills shortage, is:

Engineering & manufacturing: 85%

Financial services: 84%

Healthcare: 84%

Construction: 83%

Call & contact centre: 75%

Industrial: 77%

Accountancy & finance: 74%

Scientific: 74%

Social work: 74%

HR: 73%

Logistics/ procurement/supply chain: 72%

Business support: 71%

Hospitality: 68%

Transportation: 68%

Marketing: 66%

Legal: 58%

Sales: 52%

The research also looks into the causes of the skills shortage and the impact it is having on businesses within the construction industry. Of those surveyed, 36% say that a simple lack of qualified candidates is the main contributing factor. A further 25% of managers cite an inability to retain staff as a major issue and 25% list Brexit is a key contributing factor.


23% of managers also believe their industry is experiencing a skills shortage due to job cuts, with 22% saying a lack of training opportunities is a concern. One in five also states insufficient funding within the sector as a contributing factor.

As a result of the skills shortage in their industries, 39% of managers say staff have had to work longer hours with one in five facing larger operational costs. More than a quarter (28%) of managers surveyed admitted to poor quality of work being produced and a further 26% were unable to fulfil work commitments to clients and customers.

Paul Kynaston, Managing Director of Construction & Property at Search Consultancy said: “Having worked in the Construction sector for almost 25 years, I have seen skill shortages intensify year on year. The industry has an image problem. Construction work is seen as dangerous, poorly paid and dirty and I think young people are now looking for quicker career movement than it’s traditionally been possible to achieve.

“The reality is something very different. Projects are now diverse and dynamic places to work, often at the cutting edge of engineering technology, and salaries/rates of pay have increased dramatically. Indeed, it is not unusual for skilled blue collar workers in the sector to comfortably earn £50k pa.

“One thing is for sure, if the country is to achieve it’s ambitions of having world leading infrastructure, then we’re going to need the people to design and build it and the Construction sector will need to up it’s game to attract the talent of tomorrow,”

concludes Kynaston.

Download the report at:  

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