A third of the contractors, consultants, architects and installers questioned in a new survey from Wetherby Building Systems revealed the main challenge affecting current construction projects is a lack of skilled operatives and it seems plastering is the trade in most demand.

Affecting all corners of the industry, almost three quarters (75%) admitted to having personally experienced coming up against a shortage of skilled workers in recent years. It seems plasterers are the tradesmen in demand as more than half (57%) of respondents stated they have found plasterers to be in most short supply. Nearly one in five (19%) revealed it is bricklayers and project managers they struggle to recruit, while installers and surveyors were also mentioned as problem disciplines.

With a clear skills gap in the industry, it is vital to increase the number of young people that are joining the sector, but this seems to be where the problem lies, with 80% of those surveyed confirming they have seen a decrease in the number of young people entering the industry over the last five years.

The bleak situation is worsened by the fact that those young people that are coming into the industry are not in a position to go straight onto site, with every person surveyed revealing they needed to undertake some form of training to enable new recruits to work on site. Almost half of those questioned (48%) admitted newly qualified workers only ever have a theoretical understanding and they have to provide comprehensive practical training to ensure they have the necessary skills to hit the ground running on site.

Others were a little more forgiving, with more than a quarter (28%) stating that the level of skills possessed depends on the college / training provider the tradesperson has come from. While 24% said youngsters do generally have some skills but they are never a finished product and they always need to undertake some element of training with every new starter to get them to the required level.

Bob Deane, managing director at Wetherby Building Systems, said: “It is evident there is a skills shortage in the UK construction industry and this situation can only improve by more young people pursuing a career in construction.

“We firmly believe this is an education process. From conversations we have had with colleges and training providers we work with, some students are not even aware of the opportunities available to them in the construction sector – this simply has to change. This will not happen unless the industry works together; training providers, contractors, manufacturers, trade bodies and associations all need to get on board to help educate, train and employ our next generation of construction professionals.”

Wetherby Building Systems surveyed more than 500 construction contractors, consultants, architects and installers to find out what the current issues are within the construction sector.