An extensive study of the interiors sector, funded by CITB and led by FPDC working in partnership the Association of Interior Specialists (AIS) and the National Association of Shopfitters (NAS), has found evidence of a looming skills shortage in the interiors sector.

The survey of site dry and wet trade operatives has been conducted as part of an interiors training review which aims to examine and explore training needs in the sector. The initial results suggest that there are relatively low numbers of new entrants coming into the sector.

No more than five per cent of operatives in any age group entered the industry in the last 12 months. There is also evidence to suggest the workforce is ageing; over a third of survey respondents are aged 41 or above and just over one in 10 are aged 51 or over.

Steve Halcrow, executive director of FPDC, said: “We’ve known for some time that there is a need to attract more skilled tradesmen and what this survey shows is lack of new entrants into the sector. Despite these recessionary times we don’t seem to be attracting enough people to ensure we can deliver high standards of workmanship. The survey highlights again the dire need to provide a solid career pathway for those wanting to enter this sector of the construction industry.

“The survey has also confirmed a higher proportion of foreign labour – more than a fifth of respondents – is working in dry trades, such as drylining, ceiling fixing/fitting and partitioning, than in wet trades such as plastering.

“Most operatives in dry construction appear to learn their trade on the job and very few operatives have become competent as a result of manufacturer training.”

The survey found that operatives in the wet trades and those with less than a year’s experience are most likely not to have any CSCS cards. However, a relatively high proportion of operatives with over 20 years’ experience also report holding no CSCS cards (27.9 per cent). Of these, 77 per cent are plasterers. This suggests that individuals in the wet trades are less likely to hold CSCS cards than those working in dry trades.