What can be done about the skills crisis?

Skills gap Ellis Fox blog

It is good that the construction industry is booming with multiple major infrastructure projects coming online. It’s creating more opportunities for companies and individuals. But amid the major expansion plans that most players in the construction sector have, there’s one major flaw. There’s not enough expertise to fill the skills gap and ensure successful delivery of projects.

The skills crisis is nothing new. It’s been talked about in the industry for years – the possible impacts, the risks, and yet here we are, living the predictions with very little change having been implemented to avert or lessen them. There’s too much at stake to not be able to deliver on projects. Is there a way to be able to close the skills gap? What are the alternatives that could be considered right now?

Cross industry expertise

There are many elements very specific to construction and infrastructure, but there are others that are not. Finance, project management, change management, logistics, procurement, waste management have core skills that can be applied to almost any industry. While the first choice may be to find people with construction experience, when that isn’t available the next best alternative is to get someone with role specific expertise who shows an aptitude and willingness to learn industry specific elements of the job.

Broaden the horizons

While changes in the UK’s immigration laws have made it more difficult to hire from abroad, the impacts are less challenging for senior skilled professionals. It may require wading through some additional red tape, but when there is an urgent need for specific senior expertise that cannot be found locally, it may be worthwhile to expand the search to include skilled professionals from abroad.

Fast-track Mentorship

Senior expertise is not gained overnight, but it can be fast-tracked through mentorship programmes. By identifying individuals who have demonstrated the potential to take on more senior roles, and pairing them up to work directly under a mentor, it’s possible to accelerate their learning. Of course this requires the willingness of senior management to put in the time and effort to mentor effectively. Given the pressure senior professionals are already under, it’s a big ask. However, from a hiring perspective it’s generally easier to find someone to replace the more junior role, as that person moves up in the organization. The short term costs can and will deliver medium and long term gains.