Passionate about addressing the ever-pressing construction skills shortage in the UK, Fraser Projects’ MD Ryan Fraser spoke to The Yorkshire Times recently, regarding the need to educate young people about the number of career options they could pursue. If you missed his interview, you can read it in full here…
Moving on to college or University, or entering the world of work, can be a very daunting time for many young people. It is a stage of their lives when career defining decisions are often made. But is there enough information available to today’s future talent, to outline the variety of job opportunities that exist? And are there particular reasons why some sectors are experiencing an apparent skills shortage?
These are the questions being asked by one local firm, Leeds-based interior fit out, building refurbishment and furniture specialist Fraser Projects. Managing director Ryan Fraser is on target to grow the business by 200% this financial year, but as he has continued to invest in his team to plan for the future, appropriately skilled tradespeople have proven difficult to find.
We spoke to Ryan to assess the scale of the national construction skills shortage and ask what he thinks needs to be done to combat this potential problem in Yorkshire. “For years we have read about the possible lack of skilled labour that the world of construction could encounter,” Ryan commented. “But in the thick of the recession, the industry, as a whole, was understandably focusing on keeping its head above water. ‘The future’, for many, seemed very far away.
“Some firms had to regretfully let their staff go, which meant a lot of talent was lost. Experienced tradespeople were forced to look for work in other industries, for example. And of course, as with any profession, many skilled workers who’ve amassed years of industry-specific knowledge have approached retirement age.
“So, fast forward to 2014, when the industry is thriving once more, and the magnitude of the skills shortage is unquestionable. Thankfully Fraser Projects has managed to source the talent it needs for the business to grow. But it has required a lot of digging”.
The Construction Industry Training Board has found that, nationally, more than 40,000 new workers need to be found every year, for the next five years. Why? Because UK construction is expected to grow by 2.9% a year from 2015 to 2019¹, a sign that confidence is returning to the sector after what has been a very bleak few years. In Yorkshire alone, the forecast is not far behind at 2.2%. But it seems that a degree of change is required if the industry is to adapt to this new-found opportunity for growth.
“I fear that, at school, construction is often pitched as a ‘last resort’ for people experiencing less academic success,” continued Ryan. “But construction is in fact a very enriching and varied industry, which can lead to very fruitful career prospects, and young people need to be made more aware of this. One individual may choose to be a specialist glazier or joiner, for example, whereas another may opt for building information modelling or surveying. It sounds cheesy but there really is something for everyone, and many of these jobs are incredibly well paid.
“The industry plays an incredibly important role in society too – for every £1 spent on construction, for example, £2.84 of wider economic activity is generated.”
So what is the answer? Ryan believes that construction firms need to each do their bit to attract more young talent into the industry.
“We attended a Construction & Housing Yorkshire (CHY) steering group meeting recently, where the consensus seemed to be that a collective voice is needed to help change the albeit misconceived image of construction,” explained Ryan. “If we look at our region specifically, we find many hard working organisations such as the Leeds College of Building and re’new – not to mention some very knowledgeable and high profile contractors – and, I believe, we can work together to entice more young people into the industry. We need to develop relationships with, training providers, careers advisors, the education system, parents, the media and the Government too, in order to drive much-needed progress
“Investment in our workforces is also key and, as well as upskilling existing staff, we need to give apprenticeships greater thought. Yes they require our time and effort, but they provide a fantastic ‘hands-on’ route into the industry, where young people can earn and learn.”
Keen to offer as many opportunities as possible to ‘future talent’, Fraser Projects is now in talks with Construction Housing Yorkshire to develop a series of events designed to encourage young people into the industry, ahead of the firm’s first apprentices being appointed next year. We eagerly watch this space…