Statistics released by the Office for National Statistics show that the construction sector was the second-biggest creator of jobs in the UK during 2015, with around 2.2million people working in the industry. However, fears remain that a skills shortage could impact major infrastructure projects.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) estimates that more than 230,000 new roles in the construction industry will be created over the next five years. At the same time they believe that the UK has a severe skills shortage within the building trade, with contractors forced to increase wages in order to tempt people into the trade.

This view is supported by Kevin Green, the Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employer Confederation (REC), who last week told the Guardian:

“Our data indicates that some employers are increasing pay faster as the competition for skilled workers intensifies. While this is great news for builders and tradesmen, there are hard questions that need to be asked about the sustainability of this trend. The UK is close to full employment and building firms are already struggling to find the people needed for major infrastructure projects.”

There are fears that a ‘Brexit’ vote in the EU referendum could only exacerbate the problem. A survey carried out by REC found that:

  • 59% of recruiters within the construction industry felt that a vote to leave the European Union would make it more difficult to fill vacancies.
  • 5% felt that it would improve the situation.
  • Just under a third believed that it would make no difference to the situation.

The Chief Executive of the UK’s largest housebuilder, Barratt Developments, is just one of many people in the industry to have spoken about the availability of labour and fears that that issue will get worse in the event of a vote to leave.

“If you ask any housebuilder what their main challenge is, they says it’s labour availability…we would much prefer that the UK stays within the EU. We have a significant part of our labour force, particularly within the London market, coming from continental Europe – the free movement of labour in the European market is a positive from our point of view”

In an attempt to encourage more people to join the industry, a week long campaign was run last week. The Open Doors 2016 campaign was a joint initiative between Build UK and the CITB, and gave people considering a career in construction behind-the-scenes access to some of the UK’s biggest building sites.