How Britain can fix the labour skills gap

on 16 December, 2014

Britain is being forced to fill gaps in its labour markets with overseas workers, according to recent research from recruitment firm Manpower UK. Construction firms are hiring Portuguese bricklayers to fill a shortfall in supply in the UK market, energy firms are increasingly relying on Spanish workers, and even one of the UK’s leading sandwich manufacturers is turning to Hungary to find staff.

Filling sandwiches might be one thing, but filling the skilled labour void following a drop off in training programmes during the recession is another. The growing demand for skilled construction workers was highlighted in a report by Manpower UK, indicating that hiring plans in construction are set to jump to pre-recession levels. Employment prospects in the sector are expected to rise by around 9% in 2015. The energy sector also looks set for an even greater increase in demand, upwards of 15%. This follows a bumper year in 2014, which saw the highest level of job creation in 40 years in the UK.

What should be fairly clear is that these increased employment opportunities should be open primarily to British workers rather than looking abroad. However, there is a need for more organisations to provide the necessary training so that UK workers will be available to enjoy this upturn in market fortunes. If the demand exists for construction workers in the UK, then improved infrastructure is needed to create the necessary supply.

Our business, AbleSkills, offers eleven types of bricklaying courses, including City & Guilds and CITB qualifications. These courses are offered on both a full-time and weekend basis, so they’re flexible enough to fit around existing commitments. Increased investment in training for our young people and skilled workers will benefit us all.

Whilst there may be truth in what Manpower claims about British companies looking abroad, ultimately there are ample opportunities for that will hopefully have an equally happy ending for British workers.

Pete Campbell is head of online marketing for AbleSkills, a construction training specialist.

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