The construction industry would appear, in part, to have only itself to blame for the still-yawning skills gap. Gary Carter, general manager at Fermacell, looks at how manufacturers are redressing this.

The recession which has hit the construction sector so hard over the past six years may be lifting, but the skills gap it has, shows little sign of being bridged.

This applies as much to the lack of potential talent joining the industry as it does the insufficient Continuing Professional Development available to more mature workers. If the gap is not mended urgently, the construction industry is likely to fall down it.

In some respects, it has only itself to blame, for the UK Commission’s Employer Skills Survey shows the construction sector is least likely to recruit from Higher Education than any other sector, and has therefore, left itself open to an increasingly aged profile.

Older workers may be already trained and therefore a safer employment option when budgets are squeezed, but without fresh blood, or a new way of working being embraced, the industry is at risk of having an imbalance of construction workers without the skills to aid economic recovery.

With 182,000 construction jobs set to be created in the next five years according to new research by the CITB, it’s no surprise that newly-trained recruits are more likely to be aware of upcoming changes to legislation and more open to new installation techniques or Modern Methods of Construction.

But growing numbers of manufacturers are now offering on-site training to sub-contractors using their products, which provides employees of all ages with invaluable, practical, on-the-job training. For their employers it can also be a more cost-effective way of training them.

Alternatively, these manufacturers are developing products and systems which do not require specialist skills throughout the installation process, yet overall are quicker to install than traditional methods. That would appear to be a win-win situation, recession or not.

By learning directly from manufacturers, contractors can rest assured that products are going to be installed correctly and not incur any remedial work to recover mistakes which, financially and reputationally, can easily send another business onto the rocks of recession.

Gary Carter is general manager at Fermacell.