Skills shortage means housebuilding is down and backlog growing

// HA News

According to research released by the Royal Institution of Chartered Suveyors (RICS) today, government housing and infrastructure targets run the risk of being compromised by the sheer lack of skilled workers in the construction industry at present.

RICS, the professional body that accredits professionals within the land, property and construction sectors worldwide, compiled information from the last 3 months of 2015 and discovered that 66% of industry professionals believed that labour shortages were considered the largest obstacle preventing growth across the sectors. Bricklayers and quantity surveyors were seemingly the hardest positions to fill, according to survey respondents.

Boosting housebuilding has been of top priority for the government following last year’s election, with the conservatives pledging to pull out all the stops to tackle the housing crisis. However, despite recent announcements of new homes across the country, we are still falling drastically behind on targets. Whilst the number of homes being built has raised from the rock bottom lull endured during the financial crisis, figures still remain below their 2007 peak. At current building rates, we are undoubtedly falling well short of meeting the target of constructing the 250,000 new homes year – the amount needed to keep up with demand.

Skills shortage

RICS say that many skilled workers were lost or let go during the difficult times of the economic downturn, and since then adequate efforts to attracting new trainees and recruits have not been made.

An aging workforce is also playing its part in perpetuating a shortage, with many skilled workers now approaching retirement age.

The organisation has called on the Tories to outline a clear strategy ASAP - one that actively encourages young people to join the construction industry. Ultimately, the strategy will need to make it easier and more attractive for potential trainees and apprentices to enter the sector.

The chief economist at RICS, Simon Rubinsohn said “While workloads are still growing at a relatively healthy pace, labour shortages in the construction sector are causing delays at different stages in the development process and leading to significant problems with project planning. More than 60% of our survey respondents said that these resulting planning delays were an impediment to growth.”

Increasing backlog

Research published by the Local Government Association has revealed that there are a record 475,647 homes to be built in England which have obtained planning permission but are still yet to be constructed, highlighting a worrying backlog that has been growing over the past few years.

Despite the large number of houses yet to be built, LGA Housing spokesman, Cllr Peter Box insists that it is skills - not planning - that currently hampers growth in housebuilding. "Skills is the greatest barrier to building, not planning. If we are to see the homes desperately needed across the country built and jobs and apprenticeships created, councils must be given a leading role to tackle our growing construction skills shortage, which the industry says is one of the greatest barriers to building.”

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