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There is a general and immediate ‘skills gap’ within the Construction sector. That applies to the operatives (carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers) but also to professionals (project planners, site managers, surveys etc). In order to meet the governments ambitious house building and infrastructure developments, the Construction Trade & Industry Board (CITB) estimates that annual recruitment requirement between 2017-21 of nearly 36,000 nationally and approx. 4,000 in the South East alone.
Whitehill and Bordon will see thousands of new homes built over the coming decades and will need plenty of skilled workers on the ground.
The town is well placed to plug any gaps, with the Future Skills Centre offering opportunities for post-16 students to learn the necessary trades.
FSC manager Steve Gilder says that the solution is to engage with schools and Government agencies to create a skilled workforce, especially in the current political and economic climate.
“Vacancies across the construction industry, from vocational operatives (carpenters and bricklayers) to technical/professionals (civil engineers and site managers for example), are still running in the tens of thousands,” he said.
“As the country faces up to the challenges of Brexit, alongside the ageing population working in construction, there are continuing fears around a sustainable workforce for ambitious infrastructure projects and the house building sector.
“The Future Skills Centre (at the former Louisburg Barracks) has been working closely with the Whitehill and Bordon Regeneration Company and employers, including Barratt Homes and Taylor Wimpey, to ensure young people leave us with the required qualifications and experience they need to excel in the construction industry.
“This has led us to significantly increasing our apprenticeship numbers from last year, with more than 20 now enrolled with local and national companies undertaking brickwork and site carpentry qualifications.
“However, there are still training opportunities for individuals looking for a career in plumbing, electrical, site management and much more. We need to continue to work with schools, community groups and Government agencies to ensure that present and future employment needs are met.”
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders said: “Nearly half of builders believe the skills shortage is a major barrier to their ability to build new homes.
“The construction sector is heavily reliant on EU workers, with just under one in 10 workers in the sector born in the EU. Brexit, coupled with the end of free movement, threatens to further intensify the skills shortages we already face.
“Given that the UK will leave the EU in less than six months, house builders are understandably concerned that skills shortages could worsen and choke housing delivery.
“To combat this skills crisis, the construction industry needs to encourage more entrants into the industry and develop higher quality qualifications. It is critical, therefore, that the Government does not pull out the rug from under the sector by introducing an inflexible and unresponsive immigration system.”