Industry facing pipeline bulge and skills crisis in six months, says KPMG report

The industry in London and the south east could face a severe shortfall of labour and professional skills as early as next April as pipeline schemes come on stream, according to a report by KPMG and the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Skills to Build report suggests that the median figure for the labour required to deliver projects in London and the south east in 2014 is 430,706, but that as many as 604,903 could be needed on site to deliver a “bulge” in pipeline projects by April 2015.

The median figure for the labour requirement the whole of 2015 is lower, at 585 852. But – given the industry’s limited training capacity – this still means that construction will be heavily dependent on absorbing labour from other countries.

And as the capacity to train home-grown construction workers is inadequate for 2015 levels of output, the report says that “the further expect future growth in construction output will further exacerbate this deficit”.

“Unless the supply of labour is increased, house building targets will not be met and the delivery of large infrastructure projects will be jeopardised,” the report concludes.

The report says there are training deficits in 23 of the 26 the ONS Standard Occupational Classification codes relating to construction, suggesting that current training does not adequately supply the skills employers need.

The warning comes ahead of an unprecedented industry summit on the issue to be held on 24 November at the QEII conference centre in London on how the industry can find solutions to the training and recrtuiment shortfall. Organised by the CIOB, the Inspiring the Future of Construction conference will hear from key industry figures including Sir John Armitt, chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, and Peter Hansford, the UK government’s chief construction adviser.

Pipeline value of projects in planning by county 2014-2017 (£bn)

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Total labour requirement of projects in planning by county 2014-2017

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It also highlights particular anomalies in construction skills training, such as the high demand for dry-lining skills and a near absence of training schemes and qualifications for them.

Phil de Montmorency, a coordinator for jobs and skills at the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Lambeth, is quoted as saying: “Our labour forecast indicated that Nine Elms Vauxhall will require nearly 300 dry-liners in the coming years. Yet, existing apprenticeship frameworks dedicate a very small amount of time to dry-lining training, instead focusing on traditional plastering methods.”

Interviews with major contractors also throw light on problems with S106 agreements on jobs and training for local labour, in particular with restrictions on the postcodes where labour where can be drawn from.

Nigel McKay, procurement and Innovation lead for Lend Lease at the Elephant and Castle regeneration said: “Our Section 106 agreement stipulates that trainees should be from Southwark and be previously unemployed. However, there are many other major developers working in the borough, all with the same targets and all fighting for the same people. Given that Lambeth, Greenwich and Lewisham are a short distance away and have people wanting construction work in Southwark, it would make more sense to have a more joined up approach across the London boroughs about S106 targets, based on production capacity within each area.”

The analysis suggests that on average 20% more workers will be required on average to meet pipeline demand in 2014-17 than were needed in 2010-13. But the industry saw 400,000 people made redundant or otherwise leave the industry in the recession, while a further 400,000 are expected to retire over the next five to 10 years.

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First published in Construction Manager

An open letter to my institute – 5 reasons why no women finalists in the CIOB CMYA Awards is very bad for the industry

Chrissi Hard HatWhen I worked in construction I had an ambition – well I had a lot of ambitions and still do – but there was one with a particular focus. I wanted to win CIOB’s CMYA (Construction Manager of the Year Awards) ; for me they were the only awards that showcased the best of the talent in the industry. I felt if I ever won an award it would show that I had achieved something that was very important to me – that I was the best I could be at my job.

The awards played another part in my career – when I decided to leave site management as a profession to focus on how to change the sector to make it better for the people within it, I did one last thing before I closed the door just to check I wasn’t making a terrible mistake – one last thing before I left behind a career that had been an important part of my identity for about 15 years.

I looked up.

I looked at CEOs, industry presidents and, of course probably most importantly, the CMYA finalists. I looked up to see if there were any women there – to see if women could make it if we only tried hard enough.

What I saw confirmed my worst fears – women were not present at the top of the industry.

This was back in 2007, and things have changed – my ambition is now to gain a PhD, help the industry improve and grow a successful business. RICS, RIBA, CIOB, ICE and IStructE have all had their first female presidents, Laing O’Rourke and Mitie both have female CEOs and CITB appointed its first female board member.

Some things have changed for the worse – the number of women in the industry has fallen from 13% down to 11% and the CMYA 2014 had no female nominations out of 95 finalists – and nowhere on the website does it even raise the issue.

So why does this matter?

  1. Women in construction aren’t daft. In fact, on average women in the sector are bright and ambitious. That’s usually because we haven’t ‘fallen’ into the industry, rather we have worked hard to work to find our place here (if you fell in, had an easy time and are a woman; good for you and long may it continue). But the problem is that our industry asks a lot of site managers – a hell of a lot more than most industries – averages of 60-hour weeks, dangerous environments and not as much respect as we deserve. If we don’t give the bright, ambitious people real opportunities for promotion and progression they might start to think it’s not worth the hassle, no matter how much they love the job. And they might do as I did – check to see if anyone else made it before making the decision to close the door.
  2. Neither are the men. Increasingly the men I talk to in the industry worry about how valued their soft skills are. Many tell me that they feel they have to “toughen up” their approach even where they feel this is detrimental to the job. As one remarked to me earlier this month, it says a lot if women who are renowned for their soft skills don’t even get a look in – what does that say about what we value in construction?
  3. Or the young folk. I don’t need to point out that the industry has an image problem, or that a lot of the things associated with this problem are linked to macho stereotypes. What then do we think is the message we send to our young entrants about the industry when we say “this is the best our industry has to offer” and there is not a single woman in sight?
  4. Or our clients. It just cannot look good to be one of the only industry awards to be so very male dominated – how do we change an image that we insist on reinforcing?
  5. But we might all be. We need to really address these issues. We can’t keep waiting for things to improve, because they haven’t – not in the last 30 years. If we want improvement we need a strategic plan that understands gender, wider equalities, the construction sector at large and the real experience of working on site. Anything without this breadth of knowledge is likely to fall by the wayside.

CIOB, this is a ‘call to action’ – as a female member, I wish I had had your support way back when, but more importantly I want female members in the industry to have it now. So please start now to put something in place that understands and caters for your full membership. Mainstream your processes so they are not gender biased, put in place programmes to help the brightest make it to the top and take time to consider your own bias and presumptions.

I’m not saying CIOB are the worst offenders or that everyone else has their house in order, but I am saying that due to the project-based nature of work in the construction industry, the male dominance in CIOB related areas and the prevalence of the ‘old boys club’ style of promotion and recognition there is currently a gender bias towards men in industry and CIOB needs to take responsibility for the part it plays in this.

It isn’t just that there were no female finalists in the CMYA 2014, there were no female nominations – not one. Whilst our membership of women maybe small at 3.41% it still should have been representative – we should have seen 3.5 women if the system was fair. Even if you only went off of the data for fellows alone, there should have been 1.7 % representation from women within the nominees.

I need to be very clear that I am not talking about giving women credit where it is not due; I am talking about not giving credit where it is. I do not want to see women tokenistically appreciated – I want to see women rewarded for their hard work at the same proportional rate as their male peers, alongside their male peers.

This is not happening.

I believe it is incumbent upon the CIOB to reconsider its practices.

If CIOB do, I think you’ll find we will all become winners.

If you agree, please like, share or comment on this page to show CIOB your support for this issue.