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Education and recruitment in the construction industry

Employers appear to be concerned by the lack of skilled candidates for jobs within the construction industry. As UK house building hits its highest level since the recession in 2008, the industry appears to be strong. Without qualified and skilled workers though, the industry could grind to a dramatic halt. With Brexit holding a dark cloud above the construction industry and a level of uncertainty, what can construction employers do to secure their workforce?

The construction industry roles are generally split up into three sectors: craft, technical and professional and management. Each of these require different skills and qualifications. Nifty Lift, providers of cherry pickers and a successful engineering apprenticeship programme, investigate how industry professionals can encourage young adults to begin a career in the construction industry – and what avenues are available to those looking to pursue a career in the industry.

University courses

Many technical roles in the construction industry require qualifications or a university degree. Various universities across the UK offer undergraduate and postgraduate courses suited for roles across the sector, from construction management and engineering to surveying and architecture. Careers which require a degree tend to be the bigger earners, depending on experience.

Higher education plays a vital role in the long term for the construction industry, providing qualified and passionate individuals to fill the demand – however, straight out of university, many individuals, whilst fully qualified, lack experience in the industry. So, many companies have chosen to introduce graduate programmes to further develop a graduate’s ‘practical’ skills and experience in the real world of construction.


In 2015/16, there were around 509,400 apprenticeship starts across England – which was over 9,500 more than figures for the previous year. Of those 509,400 starts, over 77,000 of those were in the engineering and manufacturing sector and 21,000 in the construction, planning and built environment sector. The beauty of companies offering apprenticeships, is that employers can train staff whilst on the job – and for apprentices, they often get a wage whilst they train too. Unlike qualified graduates who might need to start afresh and build experience in the industry, this is an opportunity for individuals to gain experience whilst earning, rather than choosing to take a volunteered internship etc. 

Apprenticeships are normally available for craft and tradesmen roles – from plumbers, painters and electricians, to brick layers and joiners. An apprenticeship in each of the roles allows for individuals to develop a set of skills suited to that trade, and gain qualifications along the way, such as NVQ’s and certificates. However, this is formally known as a vocational education, not a bachelor’s degree.

Changing attitudes

To solve the skills shortage in the UK, the industry needs to work to change the attitudes and perception of the industry to encourage individuals to pursue a career in the sector. With at least 8% of non-UK workers in the industry, we might face an even worse shortage as Brexit leaves an uncertain shadow above the possibility of employing EU workers in the UK. However, despite the uncertainty and lack of skilled workers, 28% of employers in the industry expect improvement in the near future, with 40% of employers needing to recruit additional workers to meet the increase in demand.

However, with the average weekly earnings within the industry growing by 6.1% between March 2015 and March 2016, the industry could see continuous growth in their wage packets. This growth in the industry’s wages could encourage more individuals to pursue a career in construction. Whilst money isn’t everything to a career, of course, the increase is a great way to get people through the door. Apprenticeships and graduate programmes are great ways to encourage a new intake of passionate and skilled workers.