Tackling the skills shortage in construction
November 3, 2023
As one of the oldest industries in the world, construction is no stranger to technological change. Yet now, just as the pace of new tech is driving the need for highly qualified workers, construction is facing a major skills shortage. Tackling that skills shortfall requires a sustainable, comprehensive, data-based program of skills training.
Lack of skills threatens growth
An industry that employs an estimated 270 million people worldwide and is valued in the trillions of dollars would seem to be doing well. Yet other figures suggest different. The UK construction industry had 50,000 vacancies in 2022. The sector has an attrition rate of around 20%. What’s more, census figures show that as many as 1 in 5 of UK construction workers are on the verge of retirement. The Open University calculated that in 2019 to 2020 the bill to the construction industry for temporary staff and overtime was a staggering £2.2 billion. Addressing the skills shortage in construction is clearly an urgent priority.
The shortage affects those currently in construction
Figures reveal only half the picture. The skills shortage is not confined to the loss of experienced workers and the lack of new hires. The consequences are also felt by existing employees. Under pressure to cover for a general shortage of skills they miss out on up-skilling due to a lack of mentors and trainers. Their chances of job progression are stymied as they are too valuable in their current roles. Poor morale, feeling undervalued, and a lack of opportunities for career development may encourage more skilled workers to take advantage of vacancies elsewhere.
The demand for new skills is increasing
This major skills shortage comes at a time when the demand for new skills is at a peak. Construction is not confined to bricks and mortar. Modular buildings and prefabrication rely now on automation and robotics. Demand for skills is growing to operate and implement Green technology. People need to be trained in retrofitting existing buildings and carbon capture techniques for new builds to meet mandatory Net Zero targets.
The training requirements for construction are already huge
The demand for additional skills comes on top of an already complex training landscape. Construction is necessarily a highly regulated industry. Compliance and re-accreditation require intensive and repeated training. Any training solution faces the challenges of a diverse and dispersed workforce, including many contractors. The range of skills to be covered is vast. A single building site can employ bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, joiners, roofers, and more. Each profession needs specialist training and regular certification and upskilling to keep workers performing to a high, approved standard. In addition, construction requires extensive health and safety training.
Learning platforms provide flexible training
Construction training covers a multiplicity of skills and must be available in a range of workspaces. Its major business objectives are to deliver effective onboarding, to maintain and drive performance, and to ensure safe and compliant operations. Digitized learning, centrally organized and curated by a learning platform provides the basis for a far-reaching, flexible learning solution to address the multifaceted objectives of construction training.
Digital learning offers a huge advantage to the construction training
Off-the-shelf, industry standard online learning modules can deliver training in core construction skills, as well as regulatory and health safety procedures. They can be easily modified and customized to keep pace with changing requirements. Digital learning is available on mobile devices making it accessible on site and on the go. The accessibility of online learning means there’s no need to take people away from their workplaces as training can happen on site during down time saving time and money.
Accessibility also applies to the content which can be targeted at individuals depending on the skills needs and level of experience or expertise. Learning platforms can distribute training in a variety of formats including text-based SOPs, videos to demonstrate technical skills, and assessments to check comprehension and attainment. Scenario-based e-learning helps teach compliance and correct procedures vital to safe operations.
Intelligent use of data enhances training
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for training in the construction sector. What’s needed are customization and personalization of learning based on the intelligent use of data. Learning analytics uses the data captured from learner interactions and engagement to identify training gaps and risks to compliance and performance. Learning platforms use AI-based systems to recommend remedial or upskilling training based on performance and completion data. Skills platforms have access to a huge amount of market data and allow businesses to use their own data to see how their own skills profiles match up. Digitization of accreditation including digital passes and badges facilitates the creation of personal e-portfolios providing a digital record of an individual’s competencies.
A culture of learning aids employee retention
The shortage of people and skills can be remedied in part by acquiring or growing a more diverse employee base. This means creating an environment that promises skills development, career progression, accreditation, and rewards. A culture of continuous, sustainable learning with opportunities to upskill is needed to keep and expand skill sets. Online learning and intelligent data are a major force in overcoming the shortage in construction skills.
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