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Skills issue is biggest challenge to construction, report reveals

Analysis by Infrastructure UK has found that skills shortages present the most pressing challenge for infrastructure projects and is the most significant contributing factor to cost inflation.

The National Infrastructure Plan, which was backed by the government, claims that there is increasing competition for resources across all sectors and that this is already manifesting itself in skills shortages, driving increased costs and affordability pressures.

An updated infrastructure pipeline published in July contained details of a £411bn investment in 564 projects and programmes from 2015/16 onwards.

To deliver this investment means bringing more workers into the infrastructure market in the form of new apprentices, technicians and graduates and by attracting skilled workers from other industries.

It will mean retraining and up-skilling the existing workforce to deliver improved productivity and performance.

The analysis found that with the growth in infrastructure investment, the pipeline creates a demand for more than 250,000 construction jobs and more than 150,000 engineering construction workers by 2020, driving a need to recruit and train nearly 100,000 additional workers by the end of the decade.

The report claimed the required skills blend to deliver the investment plans would change over time, leading to a need to retrain and up-skill around 250,000 of the existing workforce over the next decade in addition recruiting new workers.

The image of the construction sector remains a barrier to attracting new entrants and encouraging greater diversity, according to Infrastructure UK.

The government is looking to address these challenges by implementing the plans set out in Construction 2025 and through a refocused Construction Leadership Council.

The report also pointed to the particular challenges in attracting young people and encouraging diversity in many areas of infrastructure and construction delivery.

KPMG UK head of infrastructure Richard Threlfall said: “I very much welcome Infrastructure UK’s initiative in developing the National Infrastructure Plan for Skills. It forces the construction industry to look beyond the current skills crisis to the long-term need to invest in its people, get serious about apprenticeships, and to re-train and diversify its workforce.

“This is a report the industry cannot ignore. The recent UK Industry Performance Report revealed that construction employees on average are receiving only 1.2 days of training a year. We need an entirely different mindset in the industry if we are to meet the challenge that Infrastructure UK has identified.”

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