The Construction Industry Training Board says an extra 224,000 builders and other workers will be needed over the next five years to meet the government’s housebuilding targets.

Driven by population growth and more people living alone, 240,000 new homes are needed each year in the UK. But only 140,000 new homes were started in the last 12 months, 100,000 short of the requirement.  

Nevertheless, the CITB forecasts construction is set to grow by 2.9% year-on-year to 2019.  

But a shortage of skilled workers is holding back this growth. The Federation of Master Builders says that two out of three small builders have to turn down work because they can’t get staff with the skills they need. Bricklayers are most in demand, followed by carpenters, plasterers and labourers.

And Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association’s housing board, has warned that the skills shortage in construction threatens Government’s pledge to build 275,000 affordable homes by 2020.

Perhaps the clearest signal of how desperate the situation is came last winter. Normally a quieter time in the industry, it was reported that companies were hiring Portuguese bricklayers on £1,000 a week because they could not source staff in the UK.

This is hitting smaller building firms hardest. According to Tony Passmore, whose Leeds-based home improvement business Passmore employs about 50 staff, until there’s a change in the way the construction industry is seen by people looking for a career, the sector is going to continue to face skills shortages.

“There’s not enough apprentices coming through, it’s as simple as that,” he says. “We are 7,500 short year after year so before long the construction industry will grind to a halt.”

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The Telegraph

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