Blog Img

Navigating the Storm: Construction industry challenges - labour shortages and solutions

Back to insights

​The construction industry has always faced its fair share of challenges, but in recent years, one issue has been particularly persistent and impactful - labour shortages.

The shortage of skilled labour in construction has been a growing concern, affecting both large-scale projects and small contractors alike.

In this article, we'll delve into the causes and consequences of labour shortages in the construction industry and explore some potential solutions.

What we’ll cover:

  • What are the causes of labour shortages in construction?

  • What are the consequences of labour shortages in construction?

  • What solutions can address labour shortages in construction?

  • What advice can construction recruitment consultants offer?

What are the causes of labour shortages?

In order for us to provide solutions to address the shortage of white-collar construction staff, we need to understand what is causing the talent shortage initially. Labour shortages in construction can be attributed to several factors:

  • Lack of Vocational Training: The decline in vocational training programs in schools has led to fewer individuals entering the construction trades.

  • Immigration Policies: Tightened immigration policies can limit the availability of skilled foreign workers, a source the industry has relied on in the past. According to CITB the share of migrant workers in the construction workforce fell to 9.8% in 2021 (the latest year data is available) from 10.2% in 2020 and 10.7% in 2018 which highlights the impact of Brexit on the industry.

  • Economic Fluctuations: Economic downturns can lead to layoffs and reduced hiring in the construction sector, discouraging individuals from pursuing careers in the field.

  • Aging Workforce: Many skilled construction workers are nearing retirement age, and there hasn't been a sufficient influx of younger talent to replace them.

Research uncovered by Construction Dive suggests that Gen Z don’t generally desire construction as a career, with only 7% of school leavers in 2018 choosing construction as a career path.

What are the consequences of labour shortages?

As a result of the low workforce within the construction sector and difficulty in recruitment, the industry and wider society are facing negative implications.

  • Project Delays: Labour shortages can lead to project delays, affecting construction timelines and budgets.

  • Increased Costs: Competition for available labour can drive up wages, increasing construction costs.

  • Quality Concerns: Rushed work due to limited labor can result in lower-quality construction.

  • Safety Risks: Overworked or inexperienced labourers can lead to safety concerns on construction sites.

What industry solutions can address labour shortages in construction?

Addressing labour shortages in the construction industry requires a multifaceted approach. Solutions need to be identified across the entire industry, as well as what immediate and long-term changes you can make to your business.

  1. Invest in Training: Support and invest in vocational training programs to attract and prepare the next generation of skilled construction workers.

  2. Promote Diversity: Encourage diversity in the industry to tap into a wider talent pool, including women and underrepresented minorities.

  3. Modernise Construction Practices: Adopt innovative construction technologies like robotics and automation to increase efficiency and reduce the need for manual labor.

  4. Retain Experienced Workers:Offer incentives to experienced and long-standing workers to or return to the industry as mentors.

  5. Collaboration: Foster collaboration between construction companies, trade associations, and educational institutions to develop sustainable workforce solutions.

What advice can construction recruitment consultants offer?

The war on talent is harder than ever to identify, engage and attract the best staff within construction.

Tess Amigoni, Manager of Interim Recruitment Solutions for Construction, and Verity Hampson-Smith, who leads the permanent recruitment across white-collar site staff at deverellsmith reveal their advice for talent attraction and retention to tackle the current hiring landscape within construction.

  • Gain an encyclopedia of knowledge - understand what your competitors are offering, whether its salaries, benefits, or incentives and ensure your business is attractive to the market.

  • Solidify Employee Value Proposition - Once you know where your business sits within the market, you can make the relevant changes and communicate your employee offering effectively to the market.

  • Audit your hiring process - Review your recruitment offering and ask yourself: is your business searching in the correct areas for prospects, are you hiring the right type of employees into the right roles (contractors, full-time employees etc), and can you cut costs in hiring?

Labour shortages in the construction industry are undoubtedly a significant challenge, but they are not insurmountable. By understanding the causes, recognising the consequences, and actively pursuing solutions, the construction sector can work to mitigate the impact of labour shortages.

Investing in learning and development, promoting diversity, and embracing technological advancements are key steps toward a more robust and resilient construction workforce, ensuring the industry's continued growth and success.

As a construction recruitment specialist, our consultants can help you hire contract, interim, and full-time employees to drive your company forward. We’ve worked with over 1,000 housebuilders and construction companies to find the best candidates in the market.

You can drop a message to Tess or Verity by completing the form below or learn more about our award-winning business here.