Construction skills shortage
at breaking point in Liverpool and North West
THE skills shortage in the construction
industry is at:- "breaking point", according to a survey commissioned by a
public sector owned built environment specialist operating across Liverpool and
the North West.
The report comes on the back of ONS data released in August which shows
construction output has decreased by 9% quarterly and 0.2% annually in the North
Scape Group carried out the most comprehensive survey of the UK's construction
supply chain, revealing the true extent of the skills crisis. Scape operates
throughout the North West, completing projects such as Notre Dame Catholic
College and Archbishop Blanch Secondary School in Liverpool, as well as working
across the UK.
Its latest analytical report Sustainability in the Supply Chain, published this
week, surveyed more than 150 contractors, subcontractors and senior managers at
public sector organisations in the North West and across the UK. According to
85% of public sector respondents, the skills shortage is negatively affecting
the quality of projects, particularly at regional level.
Scape Group chief executive Mark Robinson said the survey's finding that 1 in
10 contractors and suppliers think the skills shortage is critically impacting
budgets was a stark reminder that the problem needed to be tackled head on
through collaborative working and training. "Our research has shown that
the skills shortage is at breaking point, not only severely impacting the
quality of what we are building but also our ability to build it on budget.
While there is a mountain to climb to overcome this challenge, basic
recommendations can be put in place to ease the burden; for example, 19% of
contractors and subcontractors still do not have an apprenticeship scheme."
said Mr Robinson.
The report also shows the vast division between the public and private sector
when it comes to how they define a healthy supply chain and what their primary
aims are. Within the private sector, long term operational stability was the
core aim (72%), however within the public sector, 70% of those surveyed felt
that providing long term benefits for the local economy should be one of the
Mr Robinson emphasised that this juxtaposition between the 2 sectors needed to
be addressed immediately if the skills shortage is to be stopped. "Now
more than ever we need to work more closely together in order to deliver for
both the public sector and SMEs. We can only achieve sustainable levels of
efficiency through a perpetual focus upon true collaboration, partnership and
greater engagement with all stakeholders."
The report also shone a light on the communication challenges between the public
and private sectors, with 75% of suppliers believing the public sector needs to
do more to engage with its supply chain, and 80% of public sector managers
Forward visibility of upcoming projects represents a continuing challenge, with
68% of the contractors and suppliers surveyed typically bidding for work 6 to 12
months before a project or contract starts, but 33% believing they should be
able to bid for opportunities up to 18 months before the contract starts.
The private sector's reliance on the public sector was another key theme of the
survey, with the public sector funding more than a quarter of the business for
64% of contractors and suppliers interviewed. When broken down further, it is
clear that SMEs rely more heavily on the public sector, with 26% of companies
stating it funded more than 50% of their work.
"Given the current economic uncertainty after Brexit, the £30billion of
public sector construction activity is a vital stream of revenue for the sector
and early signals from the new government that austerity measures might be eased
would be welcomed across the board." Mr Robinson added.
Once the results of the survey were collated, Scape put together a list of
recommendations based on the results it had gleaned from the marketplace.
Top of the list is addressing the skills shortage, which Scape recommends should
be tackled head on by a greater focus on apprenticeships, and addressing the
ever present gender gap in the industry by offering more attractive
opportunities to young women.
Next, greater forward visibility of project pipelines to support SMEs is vital,
according to Scape, in generating long term financial security in the UK.
Mr Robinson said:- "If tenders were made public more than 18 months in
advance it would allow SMEs the time to plan ahead, form partnerships and
increase the likelihood of a successful bid. It would also allow for more stable
employment patterns, resulting in increased stability in the pricing of
contracts across the whole construction industry."
Scape emphasised that a greater collaboration between the public sector and the
supply chain is also needed to support efficient delivery, for example through
consistent and forward looking digital communications driven by government, and
the importance of local spend and social value must be communicated.
"The public sector, by its very nature, must deliver greater social value
through its supply chain and this is balanced alongside the increasing pressure
to deliver savings and achieve more with less.
The supply chain is the vehicle through which the public sector can deliver this
extra value and there are greater opportunities for those who understand this
key aspiration. However, our survey has shown the public sector needs to clearly
communicate the value of local spend and present tangible results which
suppliers can relate to." said Mr Robinson.