Why is The Demand for Construction Workers Rising?

The construction industry is one of the largest contributors to the UK economy – with the gross value added (GVA) of the industry exceeding £108.7 billion in 2023. It’s one of the largest in the UK economy, employing more than 9% of the entire UK workforce.

There’s no denying the prevalence of construction work in the UK, but do we have enough workers? Why is the demand for construction workers rising? Is there a lack of construction professionals in the UK workforce? Let’s find out.

Outlining The Current Skills Shortage

According to the UK Trade Skills Index, the current skills shortage means there is a need for 937,000 new recruits by 2032. Out of these recruits, 244,000 will need to be qualified apprentices who have finished their training.

This will help to bridge the gap in the industry, which is currently affecting certain trades more than others, such as:

  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Engineers and technicians

Let’s look at engineers and civil engineers – 25% of all job postings in the UK are seeking skilled engineers. Job postings seeking green engineering applicants have seen an increase of 55%, and this trend is likely to continue due to the government’s targets to reach NetZero by 2050.

There is also a skill shortage among construction project managers – in fact, this job position is currently on the UK’s critical employment list. It is predicted that vacancies for construction project managers will increase 11% faster than the usual rate until 2030.

If the right action is not taken, the demand for skilled construction professionals is predicted to soar in the next decade. The 2016 Farmer Report predicted that we will see a 20-25% decline in the construction workforce in the next few years.

Currently, there are close to 40,000 job vacancies in the construction industry in the UK. The bottom line is that the UK needs a lot more apprentices and construction professionals to meet the demand, and to prevent the skills gap from getting progressively worse.

Why Is It Becoming Harder to Find Construction Workers?

So, we know that there’s a huge demand for skilled construction professionals in the UK, but why is this?

There are several factors behind this decline, including an ageing workforce, the impact of Covid-19, the cost of living crisis, and the decline in apprentices in the UK. Let’s explore further:

An Ageing Workforce

In the UK, our population is ageing. There are currently more people of pension age than there are children under the age of 16. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) predicts that over 24% of the UK population will be over the age of 65 by 2042.

This not only impacts healthcare, housing and the economy but leads to a shortage of professionals in the construction industry.

The HBF Home Building Workforce Census 2023 found that:

  • Only 4% of the construction workforce is under the age of 20
  • 43% of the construction workforce is over the age of 40
  • 1 in 5 builders are over the age of 50

This poses a problem. More and more builders will begin to retire, and there simply aren’t enough young people joining the workforce.

The Impact of Covid-19

Covid-19 created challenges across the whole of the UK – it impacted healthcare, the economy, and unsurprisingly, the construction industry.

Employment rates in construction dropped by 11% in 2019 – especially among workers who were self-employed – and it fell by 3% in 2020.

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise due to nationwide lockdowns – a lot of construction projects and construction sites were put on hold, especially during the first lockdown. This impacted all roles in construction, from builders and equipment operators to project managers and architects.

The pandemic could have also discouraged young people from choosing career paths that involve onsite work – they may be more likely to opt for careers that facilitate remote working instead.

Although construction activity has seen a huge increase since, there’s no denying the impact the pandemic had on the industry as a whole.

The Cost of Living Crisis

The cost of living crisis has certainly taken its toll on industries across the UK – including the construction sector.

That being said, the construction industry hasn’t seen a huge impact. The pandemic and the Ukraine war have had an impact on the supply chain, but so far, the industry appears to be relatively stable in terms of economic growth.

However, potential employees may be more reluctant to choose a career in construction due to affordability constraints.

Construction professionals may be unable to afford housing near projects, which means the industry needs to consider the needs of potential construction workers by considering housing incentives or investing in more training programmes to attract – and retain – talent.

Fewer People Like The Idea of Construction Work

Another reason why it’s much harder to find suitable construction professionals is that fewer people seem to be opting for careers in the construction industry – for example, younger people may not be aware of the varied roles available.

That being said, more and more young people are looking for careers as engineers. A survey that explored the career choices of over 4,000 13-16-year-olds in the UK found that engineering was the most popular choice.

Although they may desire an engineering career, it may not be as easy as it seems. In fact, 9/10 educators said that the school curriculum doesn’t support learners with more practical skills.

This means that many young people wanting a career in engineering and the wider construction industry may not be getting the support they need in school – and will need to seek apprenticeships, college courses or further education to obtain the knowledge and skills required to be a construction professional.

A Decline in Apprenticeships

This brings us to our next point – there may be a higher demand for construction professionals due to a lack of apprenticeship routes. It’s not as simple as applying directly for jobs – you often need hands-on experience in the construction industry.

However, apprentices are on the rise, which could mean the construction industry will see a rise in potential workers in the years to come. Apprenticeship starts increased by 2.5% in the years 2023-2024, in comparison to the previous year.

Those looking for an apprenticeship in construction will need to find an employer to give them site experience and on-the-job training. However, the biggest deterrent for potential employers hiring apprentices appears to be the lack of government support.

The Department of Education introduced T-Levels in 2020, which could help to address this issue. This involves a two-year qualification for 16-19-year-olds that supports young people in developing their skills. Some subject options in the construction industry include:

  • Engineering, Manufacturing, Processing & Control
  • Onsite Construction
  • Design, Surveying and Planning for Construction
  • Maintenance, Installation and Repair for Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Building Services Engineering for Construction

Young people will undergo a combination of on-site experience and theory, allowing them to prepare for a career in the industry.

How Can I Find Skilled Construction Workers?

Finding skilled construction workers can be tough, whether you’re looking for labourers, engineers, project managers or architects.

Outsourcing your recruitment could be the best option. It can save you time and money, and make it easier to find the right fit for your business or project.

At Strategic Resourcing, we understand the skills constraints in the construction industry and the effects it’s having on construction projects. This is why we have created a user-friendly platform, used exclusively by the construction industry.

Our user-friendly platform takes the stress out of construction recruitment and resourcing. With our platform, you can list vacancies to our recommended list of construction recruitment agencies – or your preferred list – to see and manage applications and schedule interviews with a few clicks of a button.

We ultimately eliminate the hassle of dealing with recruiters directly – you simply utilise our dashboard and begin the hiring process. Our streamlined platform can save you valuable time and reduce your workload – so book a demo today or call us on 0151 600 5221 to get started today! See our software in action by filling out your details below:

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