In recruitment, one of the challenges we are faced with daily is evaluating the skills available in the industry. As we recruit primarily for senior positions within the top 50 main contractors, the questions we ask are; Are these the right skills for what main contractors need, and will they be able to help companies navigate the challenging times ahead?

There are a lot of good people in infrastructure and a lot of highly qualified people in construction, yet still there is an ever widening gap with not enough skilled people to meet the industry demand. What can be done about it?

Industry intervention and skills development

Last year CITB warned of the widening skills gap in construction and the need to stimulate skills development in the domestic market. Not only to mitigate the unknown repercussions of Brexit, but also because of the number of senior highly skilled people due to retire or exit the industry in the next few years. Together with government, funds were pledged to stimulate skills development in all sectors, but were these efforts too little too late?

While construction promises good prospects of job security (due to the demand for skills) in an increasingly volatile job market, the industry still seems to be struggling to attract and develop the skills most needed in construction. The annual Construction Skills Network report forecasts growth of only 1,3% for 2019 (down from last year).

Uncertainty not an excuse

While Brexit may well be a factor causing a stranglehold on investment and skills development, it’s the equivalent of little Johnny using the old “the dog ate my homework” excuse. Surely the industry is smarter than that? It’s time to innovate, think out of the box and find the skills that exist, but that main contractors may not be considering.

We’re talking about skills transfer from other industries, particularly in the areas of financial management and technology. Consider taking on young innovators who will be able to offer a fresh perspective on tackling industry issues and using technology tools to facilitate solutions. There are many people with senior level expertise in facilitating change and project management, but they may not necessarily be working in construction and infrastructure.

In an ideal world, local skills development efforts will pay off and there may be an influx of highly skilled new recruits available, but that is going to take time. In the meantime the skills gap will widen unless main contractors open themselves to new possibilities and prospects.