Construction needs recruitment innovation to meet future challenges

Taking the plunge and moving into a new industry or trade can be one the biggest decisions someone will make.

Get it right and an industry can benefit from people who have a mature approach to work and are keen to learn. For the individual, they can build a new career and bring fresh thinking to their employer.

But this happens fairly rarely these days. Many employers will prefer to recruit from a pool stocked with people, who already have all the necessary skills and experience. While for the individual, having had a successful career in one industry, changing tack can seem like an unnecessary risk. It can also be hard to find out about the opportunities in another industry and what training you need to do to access them.   

But with Brexit looming, employers will need to look harder at options like this. Next month, we will be releasing our second major study of migrant workers. Last year, this showed that many employers were concerned that post-Brexit, it would get harder to access the skilled workforce they needed but were also unsure what their response should be.         

Our Green Paper, Construction and Built Environment Skills Transferability in the UK (PDF, 716Kb), is part of a series, looking at potential options. It asked employers about what proactive measures they were taking to encourage people into construction from other industries, or attract workers from elsewhere in the country.

The research found that 62% of employers took no actions to encourage workers to transfer between trades in the last two years. Four out of 10 surveyed employers had never taken action to recruit skilled workers from other parts of the UK. This increases to over half for professional and managerial roles. This is despite about one in five in construction having previously worked in another sector.

So the evidence suggests that there is currently little appetite among employers to engage with transferability. This is not surprising given that employers have generally not needed to do this and it’s currently not straightforward. For employees, the costs of retraining and restarting at a lower salary grade can be barriers as is the fact training tends to be industry-specific, limiting their ability to move trades.

But the need for transferability will increase, and there is good practice out there. Examples include Skanska’s Bring your Difference, which offers secondments to employees within different areas of their business and Step in, Step up to Construction, run by Kier.

And looking to the future, we can do a lot more. For example, we can use our forecasts of future skill needs to prioritise support for upskilling and ensuring training providers are well placed to respond. We will also work with card scheme administrators to identify the potential to prior learning and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and collaborate with industry to develop top-up courses to enable transition for people with relevant transferable skills.

Multi-skilled workers who bring new insights and a strong work ethic into the workplace can be transformative for a business, but they won’t change careers on their own accord. It’s up to all of us to convince them of the merits, and put in place support to help them on their journey.

The prize is clear, and we are committed to working with industry to get it right.

About the author

Steve Radley is CITB's Policy Director.