Construction needs over a quarter of a million extra workers by 2026

Posted on 14 June 2022

Amey construction employees

More than a quarter of a million extra construction workers will be needed by 2026 to meet growing demands on the UK sector, a Construction Skills Network (CSN) report reveals.

The paper shows that the built environment requires an additional 266,000 workers to meet projected UK construction demand over the next four years, which is equivalent to an extra 53,000 recruits each year.

Carpenters, joiners and construction managers are among the positions that are most in demand, along with a range of technical roles, such as technicians and office-based support staff.

A total of 2.78m construction workers will be needed by 2026, if projected growth within the industry is met.

Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) chief executive Tim Balcon has warned the sector needs to both “attract and retain top level talent”, but has admitted it will be a “major task” to respond to the skills demand.

It comes as official figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today revealed that the construction workforce grew by 1.2% between January and March this year, rising from 2.16m (October-December 2021) to 2.18m workers.

Substantial growth is expected in the sector over the next four years, according to CITB's annual forecast, which predicted soaring demand in the private housing, infrastructure and repair and maintenance sectors. This, it said, would create the need for more workers in these areas.

Regional breakdowns show that 26,000 additional workers will be needed in Greater London by 2026, while the South East will require 23,000 – these two areas have the largest expected construction outputs of all areas in the UK. However, the South West needs to recruit the most number of staff, 41,950 in total – or over 8,000 per year – to meet demands.

Balcon said: “Construction is vital in supporting the backbone of the UK economy. These future growth projections are encouraging after the stalling effects of the pandemic.

“However, this is set against a current backdrop of higher energy costs, material shortages, and associated price inflation that is currently hitting companies across the sector.”

He added that the sector has a lot to offer potential recruit, with careers he argued could  “see you enter the industry as an apprentice and leave it as the chief executive”.

Balcon said: “Training routes into the industry will be a focus for us and we have to attract and retain those that are under-represented – in particular women and those from ethnic minorities. It will be a major task, but the industry needs to evolve and reach its untapped potential for the national economy and our competitiveness on a global scale.”

The report highlights that a “pick-up” in construction work during 2021 created a “very strong increase” in job vacancies and reported skills shortages. Coupled with a trend of fewer EU nationals in the construction workforce, the report suggested that firms should increase their teams by:

  • reaching out to skilled workers who have left the industry to get them back into construction

  • attracting new entrants into the workforce from those leaving school, further education, apprenticeships, or higher education

  • improving the retention of workers within the industry.

The CITB has pledged to create “more accessible routes” into construction in its Business Plan, published last month. It will do this by focusing on apprenticeships and onsite experience, as well as rolling out occupational traineeships in further education.

Last month, Construction News reported that construction firms paid out record bonuses to staff in March 2022 in a bid to retain employees amid skill shortages.

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