Will the new ‘T’ Levels solve the construction skills crisis?

Throughout 2017, the property press has reported a chronic housing shortage, impacting on rental and for-sale properties as well as social housing.  Back in March, the Telegraph’s Allister Heath called the UK’s housing shortage ‘the greatest threat to the UK economy’, (citing is as more of a concern than Brexit or the Trump presidency).  Little has changed since.

Housing providers are backing calls for Philip Hammond to relax planning laws in the Budget to address the UK’s chronic housing shortage.

However, many within the sector blame not only policies which are not supporting social housing and property taxes, but also a lack of construction skills.  Put simply, construction projects throughout the UK are struggling to find the skills they need, and the threat of Brexit has worsened the issue, with many skilled EU workers leaving the UK rather than face an uncertain future.  As a result, many housing projects are delayed or cancelled.

In order to tackle the widely reported skills shortages, the Department for Education recently announced plans to introduce T-Level courses.

However, specialist rail and construction recruiter, One Way, while welcoming the new qualifications, believes this will not be enough.  They argue that unless radical steps are taken to educate students about potential opportunities within the construction sector, the new initiative is likely to fail due to a lack of take-up.

One Way believe that the secret to solving the skills crisis is better promotion of the construction industry as a ‘career of choice’ for school leavers.

Paul Payne, Managing Director of One Way comments:

“Any initiative that addresses the longstanding skills shortage in the construction industry is clearly a step in the right direction. In theory, the newly announced construction T-Levels could be particularly promising because they will, crucially, offer ‘on the job training’ rather than purely classroom based learning. However it can’t be ignored that the construction industry faces a real image problem – too many people are simply put off entering the field. Consequently unless more is done to change the outdated perception of a male only environment with jobs purely being ‘on site’, too few pupils will choose to do them.

“We’ve long championed the need to not only encourage more females into construction – via our #Girls Allowed campaign – but to also educate all pupils on the varied opportunities available through our One Way into Construction initiative. And we’d like to see more organisations follow suit. We need to get away from the old age belief that you have to be on a building site laying bricks to work in the sector and utilise role models to highlight what being in construction is really all about. Schools often get visits from legal firms, accountants and technology companies, for example, but rarely do you see a construction business go in and this needs to change. Only when the sector is truly viewed as a career of choice for everyone will initiatives like T-Levels get the take up they need to help solve the skill shortages.”

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