Perfect storm for construction trade leads to shortage of qualified professionals – from tilers to roofers, bricklayers to plumbers

Post pandemic, post Brexit, the world has got a lot smaller and almost every sector of the UK is experiencing shortages of one kind or another – however these shortages are being felt more keenly in the construction trade, where it’s created shortages of everything, from materials to skilled people – and it even extends to the drivers who would normally drive the materials between materials suppliers and the trade professionals who will use them!

Where are the construction talent gaps?

When people think of construction, they think of bricklayers and joiners, but almost all professional construction trades are struggling with labour shortages.  Bathroom and kitchen improvements are being hit particularly hard, with a shortage of qualified fitters, a shortage of materials and a shortage of tilers in the UK, meanwhile there is increased demand for services and delays of 6-8 weeks on projects are common – and longer delays are almost inevitable for major projects.

Here’s just some of the professions where skilled workers are in demand across Wales:

  • Tilers
  • Electricians
  • Joiners
  • Fire safety experts (fire doors and fire stopping)
  • Kitchen and Bathroom Fitters
  • Plumbers
  • Roofers

Why are there so many talent shortages in skills like tiling?

Pundits have been quick to blame the labour shortages on an aging profession, a previous lull in employers providing new apprenticeship opportunities, a ‘brexodus’ of EU workers returning home and an increase in demand from property developers and homeowners looking to undertake home improvements like extensions to facilitate ’work from home’ arrangements – in reality, all of these factors are combining to create a perfect storm for the sector.

It’s fair to say that qualified tradesmen have never been in such high demand.  Meanwhile, whatever the cause, The FSB have reported last month that 50% of construction businesses are struggling to recruit staff for key trades like carpentry and bricklaying and also shared the current challenges suppliers are having in sourcing materials.

Opportunities for new entrants to construction in Wales

Finding staff is definitely a challenging for businesses in the sector, however there is an upside to the growth in business and this is the creation of new opportunities for Welsh young people wishing to train in STEM sectors like construction.     The future outlook for construction professionals is anything but bleak with new developments planned across Wales and construction businesses need to respond by creating modern apprenticeships to attract future applicants.

A quick scan reveals more developments planned for Cardiff Bay, 500 new homes planned for Newport, a 27 storey tower block planned for Cardiff City Centre, 780 new work placements planned by the CITB and Cyfle in West Wales, a number of massive projects in North Wales and a £130m new arena planned for Swansea.

The construction sector in Wales is thriving – and that’s without the massive increase in post-lockdown private projects.  There are some great training providers based in Wales so provided the sector can attract high quality trainees, and increase the amount of apprenticeships and training on offer, the skills gaps can easily be overcome.

Challenges for the construction sector

Of course, it’s not only creating the training packages but also finding the right people. The biggest challenge for the construction sector will be securing enough new entrants willing to train or retrain to fill critical skills gaps, ensuring there are enough apprenticeships and training and of course, also ensuring that any work is done to the tighter safety regulations rightly imposed following Grenfell.

Wales definitely has the manpower, the construction training providers and the appetite for project completion – the key will be attracting talent and competing for trainees against other booming sectors like computing, marketing and logistics.

Let’s hope that the supply chain can deliver the materials and that Welsh construction firms can ensure the profession is able to attract the best candidates looking for a well-paid career with a very stable future.  Building Wales future construction talent must be a priority.

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