Unite has demanded radical action to tackle the construction industry’s skill shortage before Brexit affects EU labour supplies.
Unite made the call following the publication of this week’s (Monday 5 February) Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) annual skills report.
The report predicts that the sector will continue to grow, with a need for an additional 158,000 workers needed in the next five years.
With an expected large increase in housebuilding there will be a particular demand for carpenters (15,350) and labourers (9,350). However, the greatest demand will be for managerial (7.8 per cent) and professional (5.6 per cent) workers.
Despite the expected continued need for new entrants into the industry, construction has failed to recruit sufficient numbers of apprentices for decades. In 2015/16 just 21,460 apprentices were recruited with completion rates far lower due to high drop-out rates.
It is feared that apprenticeship recruitment rates may have fallen even further following the introduction last year of the apprenticeship levy, which has resulted in a fall in the number of apprentices across all sectors.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The industry remains in denial about apprentices with everyone thinking it is someone else’s responsibility to train the workers’ of tomorrow.
“The challenges facing the future of the industry are continually mounting and Brexit will mean that the quick fix of recruiting skilled labour from aboard will no longer be easily available.
“As the industry can’t be trusted to resolve the apprenticeship recruitment crisis, it becomes the responsibility of government and clients to make the recruitment of apprentices a key requirement on all contracts.
“Unite has been a key broker in ensuring there are apprenticeship recruitment targets on major projects such as Hinckley Point. This model needs to be rolled out across the industry.”