In his first budget speech, the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out the Government’s plan to “tackle the UK’s productivity challenge”. Although the speech itself contained no reference to house building or planning directly, it did set out plans to tackle the shortage of skilled workers affecting the UK construction industry.
Tackling the skills gap to deliver more homes
The Budget announced the introduction of T-Level qualifications to rival the traditional academic system and further enhance technical education. In addition, the chancellor pledged a 50% increase in the number of programme hours for 16-19 year olds by 2019/20 and announced £40 million of funding for the Lifelong Learning pilots to retrain existing workers.
Small and medium-sized (SME) businesses employ 60% of the private sector and it is estimated that 20% of all SMEs operate in the construction industry. However, SME house builders currently build just 12% of the market. This is very damaging for skilled workers pursuing a career in construction.
Rico Wojtulewicz, policy advisor for the House Builders Association (HBA), said: “It is imperative that we deliver high-quality training, but not if employment opportunities are for a transient workforce or one that is concentrated mostly in large cities.”
Paul Bogle, head of policy and research at the NFB, said: “SMEs are already capable of providing the career opportunities that construction needs. The industrial strategy and local policies must properly reflect the role of SMEs in training local apprentices, recruiting local workers and developing local economies."
A missed opportunity?
Many feel that the budget was a missed opportunity to take forward government’s housing agenda, following on from the positive plans outlined in the recent housing whitepaper.
Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said “The extra £2 billion investment in social care to reduce the burden on our strained health and social services is welcome. But we know that housing which supports independence and health is also crucial, and the long-term questions which remain on the future funding of supported housing risk undermining this measure.
“We hope the autumn budget goes much further to tackle the obstacles which continue to make genuinely affordable housing inaccessible to millions of people.”