Construction has traditionally been a labour intensive and dependant industry. Whilst technology has allowed the sector to scale and grow; it fundamentally revolves around people, individuals who are bought together to design, build, and deliver what can often be considerably complex projects and works. The industry has long seen an impending cliff approaching; an aging workforce, a lack of skills and a lack of investment. Since the start of 2019, the construction industry has lost almost 300,000 workers from the workforce – largely through early retirement driven by the pandemic. A further 500,000 are expected to leave the industry over the next 10 years and when we consider that 225,000 additional workers will be required to meet construction demand by 2027 – we simply need more people and apprentices are vital to keeping not only the industry building but also the economy growing. Demand aside, there is also the issue of skill retention and transfer – much of the invaluable experience and knowledge held by the workforce could also be lost to retirement which would put the industry and the UK at a huge disadvantage.
There is however a glimmer of hope, each year there is an average of 31,000 new apprentices coming into the industry and various initiatives are promoting the importance apprentices, training, and investment in the future. Clearly more still needs to be done and with an average dropout rate of 40% the industry the decade ahead is critical. This however is not limited to construction; at a macro level the UK has the lowest fertility rate recorded since 1960 and we have the lowest recorded number of 15- to 19-year-olds coming into the economy so competition for people and the best talent will only grow. Technology will help but as the saying goes – it is all about the people. We all need to value and promote apprenticeships at all levels and across all sectors. It is a huge investment but knowledge transfer works both ways; apprentices can also bring a fresh perspective, challenging dated practices and mindsets along with antiquated processes. From our own experience at BW, apprentices have allowed us to scale at a rapid pace; allowing senior managers to work more efficiently whilst ‘growing our own’ and helping us to foster a strong cultural DNA.
Looking ahead, apprentices will underpin our future growth – we want to attract the best talent, promote from within and help to champion a vibrant, diverse, and inclusive future. Let’s go to work!
Kevin P’ng, Commercial Director, BW: Workplace Experts