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Upping the ante on skills

The past two decades have witnessed unprecedented levels of global integration. Just-in-time delivery systems have redefined production processes, with the ability to offshore goods and services blurring geographic boundaries. Technological improvements have connected people and places in previously unimagined ways, with the wide and low cost availability of real-time information facilitating the near seamless movement of capital and labour.

Jeffrey Matsu, Senior Economist, RICS
3 July 2017

The mobility of resources has allowed businesses to access larger and deeper pools of talent, although for the built environment this has, in many cases, been insufficient to meet demand.

Supply constrained

Brexit has triggered a broad reassessment of the UK’s immigration policy, and although the outcome is as yet unclear, the reduced net migration that is on the Prime Minister’s agenda will exacerbate the current shortage of skilled workers. In the construction industry, the supply constraint became most evident in 2014 and, based on RICS’ quarterly market survey data, has remained at elevated levels. Quantity surveyors and bricklayers are two prominent examples of professions where the labour market has failed to keep pace with the needs of local businesses, but the shortfalls are evident in a vast array of other occupations as well. Increased numbers alone will not ease the bottleneck either, as two-thirds of businesses tell us that insufficient quality is the primary reason for the hiring challenge.

Key takeaways of Economic Skills Report 2017

  • Reduced net migration will exacerbate the current shortage of skilled workers.
  • Government investment in training can help to bridge the skills divide if it is targeted more on attainment outcomes rather than numbers. The apprenticeship levy is a first step but not the final solution.
  • Given the highly cyclical nature of construction workload activity, better job skills transference could improve labour mobility and overall hiring outcomes.
  • Introducing more diversity in the way that industry operates and simplifying the system by reducing the number of technical qualifications available could attract new entrants.

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