Experts call for government to tackle skills shortages in construction

Experts at the Ecobuild 2015 event at the Excel Centre in London used the platform to draw attention to the skills shortages that continue to plague the industry and hold back its development.

Sir John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority for the London 2012 Olympics, and Richard Threlfall, Head of Infrastructure, Building and Construction at KPMG, discussed the issues of underinvestment and skills shortages during a debate at Ecobuild.

According to, who attended the event, Armitt commented on the lack of young recruits in construction, stating that a new approach needed to be taken by the government. ‘We do nothing in this country to inform parents about the choices their children can make, we have to get to a point where there is as much value given to someone who has a vocational career as they do someone who has a degree.’ Armitt stated that this required long-term commitment by successive governments for ten or twenty years.

Threlfall said that underinvestment was another key problem that may not be solved easily, as the industry is ‘plagued by low margins’ and is ‘highly fragmented.’

Executive vice president of Skanska Infrastructure Development, Steve Cooper, said that skills were a ‘big worry’ in the UK construction industry, noting that in some areas it is ‘impossible’ to find the right labour.

Skill shortages are driving labour prices upwards for many key roles in the construction industry. Construction companies should endeavour to track their costs as closely as possible by using job costing software to identify areas of spend that go over budget, job by job. 

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