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UK Construction Industry needs 348,000 new recruits

UK’s biggest industry to have 2.8 million workers by 2010….


Screenshot of Construction Skills Network report cover

The Construction Skills Network, launched in 2005, represents a radical change in the way research, data and information on the future employment, skills and training needs of the construction industry is collected and produced.

Co-ordinated by ConstructionSkills, the Sector Skills Council for Construction, it draws on the knowledge and experience of Government, Sector Skills Councils, construction companies, education and training providers, regional agencies and customers across the UK. This unique collaboration means the Construction Skills Network provides, as near as possible, a consensus view of the current and future skills and training needs of the industry.

The Construction Skills Network “Blueprint for UK Construction Skills 2006-2010” report published on the 5th June, forecasts that 348,000 more employees will be needed for the construction industry by 2010 – an average of 87,000 per year.

In the most comprehensive report ever published for the industry, the Construction Skills Network lifts the lid on predicted construction demand UK-wide and provides detailed analysis of expected workflow and project type, and forecasts for the occupational skills requirements region by region between 2006 - 2010.

Strong Growth Predicted

The Construction Skills Network confirms the good news that the UK construction industry will continue to experience strong growth, with construction output expected to rise by 12.7% by 2010. By identifying exactly how many new recruits in each trade will be needed over the next five years to meet demand and account for industry leavers, the report also provides the industry with the information needed to ensure that every construction programme can be researched and delivered.

The analysis of skills reveals a significant shortage in the managerial positions. Although at 11,090 new recruits every year, the highest annual skills requirements UK-wide is for workers with wood trade skills (e.g. carpenters and joiners), there is also expected to be a high demand for managers, clerical staff, architects, engineers, and other design and technical professionals. In total, the number of “white collar” workers the industry needs to recruit every year to 2010 is forecast to be over 36,400 - almost 50% of the annual workforce requirement.

Key Findings

The report found that construction growth is expected to shift from the North to the South and East driven by strong growth in the new build sector that includes some £36 billion of large (£100m+) projects, including the Kings Cross redevelopments, ports projects at Shellhaven, Felixstowe and Harwich, East London Line extension, Victoria Station redevelopment and the Olympics and Thames Gateway construction programmes.

  • The East of England is set to experience one of the highest employment growths with an increase of 18.6% by 2010, with London at 11% and the South East at 14%.
  • Growth in the North is expected to slow: construction employment in the North West is expected to grow by 5%, the North East by 6%, Yorkshire and Humberside by 6% and Scotland by 8%.
  • Wales and Northern Ireland will also see strong growth. Construction industry employment in Wales will rise 12%, driven in part by the £3.2 billion Welsh Quality Standards Scheme, and a 13% increase in Northern Ireland can be attributed to the large public investment programme planned for the region over the next 10 years.

The Olympic Effect

Contrary to popular myth, the indications from the data at this stage are that delivering the Olympics programme will not impact on the successful completion of regional construction projects. Although the Olympics programme is high profile, has a value of around £2.5billion over the next seven years and will need an average workforce of 5,000 each year (peaking at 9,300 in 2010), it is not enough on its own to significantly boost output. The Construction Skills Network estimates that the Olympics programme will account for only 0.2% of the UK’s total construction workforce between now and 2010.

Project Variety

The report also provides insight into the different types of construction project the new recruits will be needed to work on. It reveals that:

  • Private output growth is expected to exceed publicly funded construction programmes.
  • Public house building is forecast to see the strongest growth of any sector as government and private house builders seek to deliver higher levels of affordable and key worker housing, particularly in London and the South East.
  • Robust growth is expected for the commercial sector, accounted for by the continued recovery for the offices market and further increases in PFI/PPP health and education work.
  • Infrastructure output is also forecast to be above the industry average, driven by projects such as the widening of the M1 and M25, the five year national water and sewerage AMP programme, nuclear decommissioning and, of course, works for the Olympic Park and Village.

Sheila Hoile, Skills Strategy Director, CITB-ConstructionSkills comments: “The Construction Skills Network provides the construction industry with its first truly authoritative basis for planning recruitment strategies, education and training mechanisms and funding delivery. For contractors and consultants, the data can be used to inform what type of building they should be designing and constructing for the client, and how best to avoid high labour costs. And it gives Government the tools to decide where it needs to focus policies and funding to avoid skills shortage and wage inflation.”

“ConstructionSkills is already successfully bringing young people, apprentices and graduates into the construction industry and I’m pleased to say there is no shortage of applicants to the industry. One of the biggest challenges is to ensure that new and existing workers have the right qualifications, but we cannot do this alone. We call on the industry to help us build for the future by making investments in training, taking on apprentices and working with us to qualify the largest workforce in the UK.”

Phil Hope MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Skills, comments: "Raising skill levels is absolutely essential to sustained economic success. The Construction Skills Network is an excellent example of the sector skills planning we have introduced under our skills strategy. We want industry setting the pace, identifying the skills challenges and opportunities and driving a demand led system which puts the right training provision in place and effectively targets our investment in training."

For more information about a career in the construction industry go to

A full copy of The Construction Skills Network “Blueprint for UK Construction Skills 2006-2010" report can be downloaded from the ConstructionSkills website.

To keep up to date with all the latest news on what ConstructionSkills is doing and discover how your company can get involved in helping secure the future of the UK construction industry register for the Skills Update.

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