Can a new approach to building products help ease the UK skills shortage?

AS 2018 draws to a close, the main topic of discussion facing the tool business and building sector is the biggest skills crisis to date. There are many mitigating factors: an ageing workforce; the Brexit fallout; and young people simply fi nding the sector unappealing for a career. Carl Ghinn, Managing Director at Fixmart, has looked at these issues and asked whether new ways of working – along with products less labour intensive – could help ease the problems. The following text also includes reference to the latest ONS fi gures and the House of Lords report.


Managing Director at Fixmart Recently the Federation of Master

Builders stated the 15 key trades the organisation monitored, revealing 40% showed a skills shortage. There are a number of reasons for this:

• An aging workforce with the latest fi gures from the Offi ce for National Statistics (ONS) show a 13% increase in the number of workers aged 45 and over in the construction industry between 1991 and 2011;

• The fallout from Brexit which has caused the CBI to call for the Government to drop post-Brexit immigration targets or risk construction sites grinding to a halt;

• Young people are fi nding the sector unappealing for a career.

The issue has been highlighted in a recent House of Lords report which stated the construction sector needs a “radical overhaul” and will struggle to meet the UK’s need for housing and infrastructure if it does not change. Off site Manufacture for Construction: Building for Change pushes prefabrication and off site manufacture as the answer, claiming it can improve productivity in construction by up to 70% and reduce labour demands thereby addressing the immediate workforce shortage challenges. Utilising prefabrication simplifi es the installation process as you only need to fi t the completed component rather than assembling each part onsite, which can require specialist skills or, equipment to cut and fi x together. As a result, not only does prefabrication reduce the amount of labour needed on a job, but also the time it takes to install.

The same principle applies whether you are prefabricating a simple bracket, or an entire house.

However, it is important to note that off site construction does not come without its challenges. Often components are larger and heavier as they have been pre- assembled and can be a strain to handle for older workers (and some younger ones too!) It can also leave contractors unable to react to unexpected changes during the installation process. If the component is assembled off site and a problem arises, the contractor would have to return it and wait for a replacement or attempt to fi x it themselves. This can cause a delay on the project and possibly huge fi nes for the sub-contractor.

So, in conclusion an ageing workforce and failure to attract young people are issues that have challenged the sector for years, and are likely to be exacerbated further depending on the outcome of Brexit negotiations. Initiatives like the apprenticeship levy may help and so will technology, but this may not be enough. The solution may partly lie in new ways of working with the less labour-intensive products and it is up to suppliers to the industry like us to support this.

HAE to attract young generation to careers

BY raising the industry’s profi le through its career programme, HAE leaders aim to counter balance an ageing workforce, averaging 50 onwards.

The reason is to encourage young people to step up before the UK’s predicted skills crisis, which could mean disaster for a sector supplying the operational resources and equipment to fulfi l vital infrastructure contracts.

HAE has over 900 members across the world, including major British companies. Yet hire is an industry that gets overlooked by youth leaving education and seeking a career, despite the potential for a quick route to the top.

Managing Director of HAE, Graham Arundell, said: “When I’m talking to members I’m hearing the biggest challenge facing the hire sector is

30 TBH October, 2018 recruiting and retaining young people.

“The education system is not turning out youth with the right skills even for such a diverse marketplace as ours.

"Some members look to recruit 50-60 apprentices a year but it can be a struggle to find quality individuals.”

Job opportunities range from depot managers, engineers and mechanics, IT, fi nancial, and logistics.

As part of HAE’s commitment to attract and support new people in the tool, plant and equipment sectors, the association is driving ahead with initiatives such as the Future Hirers programme working with educational establishments. The ILM Level 5 Graduate scheme, both aimed at 18-30-year-olds. HAE is also adapting gaming technology into virtual reality training modules. It

is hoped these initiatives will fast-track individuals on a career to reach the very top of the hire sector profession.

The hire sector is a vital component in the UK when delivering both commercial and public economic activity. HAE members provide the resources and capability behind public and commercial investment: in land and buildings, infrastructure, national and international events, and corporate hospitality.

Mr Arundell concluded: “We're doing a lot of work on virtual reality.

"The spin off from this initiative is at career fairs where we have lots of youth queuing up to have a go.

“It gives us the opportunity to engage with them and create awareness of the industry and the diff erent career paths on off er.

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