It is not new news that the construction industry is experiencing major difficulties employing skilled workers, but, according to the Federation of Master Builders, almost half of the UK’s construction SMEs are reporting struggles to find roofers in particular.
Skill shortages across the UK have been attributed to many issues, such as a lack of apprenticeships being taken up over the past decade or more by young people. The call of the IT industry has been hard to resist for many young people leaving school, and the construction industry has suffered as a result. As current roofers approach retirement, there is a severe shortage of skilled, experienced and trained roofers to follow and replace them.
Looking to the future of roofers in construction
Incentives and initiatives have been set up over the past few years in a bid to attract more young people to the industry, and things seem to be picking up, with a faster uptake of construction apprenticeships in the last two years.
However, the approach of Brexit, and the uncertainty it has created within the UK has led SMEs to fear the removal, or reduction at least, of migrant workers, who have filled a glaring hole in the construction industry skills shortage. According to the experts, 12% of the British construction industry workforce is of a non-UK origin.
Brexit has also affected the value of the pound, and this has had a knock-on effect in terms of materials costs rising significantly, and SMEs are finding it harder to be competitive in their market.
The industry is experiencing improvements in workload, with a rising demand for private house renovation and building, yet the skills shortage means that many SMEs simply cannot guarantee consistency with a diminishing workforce. Construction employment agencies could soon be in a position where they can ‘name their price’ for employees, particularly skilled ones, such as:
The chief executive of the FMB has expressed his concerns for a significant time, and has observed the situation becoming worse. Brian Berry said last year, ‘Of the 15 key trades and occupations we monitor, 40% show skills shortages at their highest point since we started to feel the effects of the skills crisis in 2013 when the industry bounced back post-downturn. This growing skills deficit is driving up costs for small firms and simultaneously adding to the pressure being felt by soaring material prices linked to the weaker pound.’
He urges the UK Prime Minister to take note of the construction skills shortage, and has concerns about Brexit, ‘The Prime Minister must ensure that the immigration system that replaces the free movement of people serves key sectors such as construction and house building.’