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Essay: Shortage of skills in the construction industry

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  • Published: 21 June 2022*
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Shortage of skills is a critical social problem which needs to be analyzed entirely in any organization. In this coursework we have discussed the challenges of demographic skills shortage of materials, plants and human resources, their potential influences and consequences on the construction industry and how we can cope with them in future. Moreover in near future the construction demand would increase and there will be critical demand for technical jobs in the construction industry. For that some of the skills and production methods are discussed in this coursework i.e. waste handling skills, Inspection and maintenance skills, concurrent engineering production strategy and use of the local resources which can somewhat help in reducing the skills gap in the construction sector.

Key Words: Skills, Construction, Production.


Skills are the essential abilities that can be expertly utilized in a particular context for a specific reason (NACI, 2003), and skills shortage occur where employers are unable to fill vacancies or having difficulties in filling vacancies for a specific occupation. Demographic and skills shortage is one of the major problems that the world is facing today. The main cause behind this shortage is either the artificial intelligence or machines which are taking place of workers. Across the world particularly Europe, America and Middle East the productivity level of skilled workers is very less (Hay’s Global, 2018). With eighty nine percent of the firms around the world are looking for skilled workers for their works, by 2035 the world will face serious shortage of skills if the methods of productivity to skills shortage is not changed. Like other countries United Kingdom is also effecting from demographic and skills shortage, in UK a survey was done by the department of the education’s employers skills (DEES) from 87000 employers and it was wired to see the result that the empty positions for technical jobs has become doubled since 2011 to 260,000. The reason behind this is that most of the employees are of over age above 55 years due to which there is less chance for the young talent to come forward and the old employees after retirement is taking their talent and skills with them without transferring to the young generation (IPD, 2015).

The skills shortage is not only high in the business sector; there is a lot of skills shortage on the technical side such as Engineering, Architecture and Construction. The potential effect of skills on the construction industry is the lack of training and education. In UK construction industry is the main pillar of the economy but from last one decade according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors there is serious shortage of both skills and man power in the industry. Investment in the construction industry is improving among the employers which they are willing to do investment in the construction industry but the skills scarcity acts as possible danger to continue expansion. Engineers and designers are the main foundation for any construction industry, unfortunately the skills gap in the construction industry cannot be filled by any technology or by any legislation. It can only be filled by the government proper strategies along with help of the industry. There are some capital and local initiatives on the construction industry skills and shortage in which vocational education and increased education and outreach programs are main focus, flexible training should be provided to the new talent through apprenticeship so that they can create a pathway for themselves in the industries (Toner, 2005).


Material Production can be best described as “the planning and controlling of all things for making sure and confirming that the right and correct quantity and quality of materials and tools are as it should be specific in a timely manner and are got at a reasonable cost, and reachable when needed” (Safa, et al, 2014).Materials cost in any typical construction is from 50% to 60% of the project and if the shortage of skills to the management is poor it can affect 80% of the project schedule. Strong proof of good skills has shown that good handling of materials and equipments for construction needs reduces the cost of the whole project. Today in this modern world where technology can do everything, the skills shortage for materials handling, management, inspection and maintenance skills for the machines to operate, used for materials handling and production is getting poor because construction materials skills system and their factors require large improvement, creating vast demand for their enhancement and the development of new applications. In construction industry the demographic skills shortage of materials can be explained in terms of usage, waste, inspection and maintenance.


Waste handling skill management is a major issue in the construction industry and in other industries of the world. In UK we have seen good skills for handling waste management but still improvement is needed. Experts says that whenever a design is being prepared for a construction project, there should also be some waste handling strategies to produce less waste of the materials at the construction site. These strategies of skills involve coordination of waste materials management such as proficient dumping of waste materials on sites; have a proper reuse of materials on sites where ever it is possible (B.K.Fishbein, 1998). These kinds of strategies and skills would provide a valuable opportunity to reduce waste of materials, and would increase the recovery of those materials that would be wasted and to polish our skills for waste handling management.


In construction industry we are facing a lot of skills shortage regarding planning and controlling of materials. This is because of not giving proper focus on education of planning skills to the workers working on the construction site. Planning and control of materials include materials takeoff, transportation and warehousing skills (Construction Industry Institute, CII). In case of improper planning and handling of the materials results in the false statistical reports related to the availability of materials and a shortage for funds and budgeting. The transportation skills and materials planning skills are important factors for construction materials planning because it can provide great help in reducing cost can get timely delivery of the materials for construction and can help in handling of dangerous materials content.


In construction industry inspection of materials is a normal process, but with the passage of time we are seeing a gap regarding the skills related with the inspection of materials. At site of construction the inspection of materials is done through proper testing and after that it is allowed to be used in the construction. The reasons for this inspection of materials are to reject or accept output of materials and to improve the quality of the construction materials. In UK we have modern technologies for testing of materials and also the skills required for inspection of materials is modernized but in developing countries of the world we are seeing shortage of skills in this regard.

Fig; 1 Demographic and Skills shortage for Materials


The Demographic skills and shortage of materials in terms of waste management, planning and controlling and inspection have very bad consequences on the environment and health. Through waste management skills shortage there is considerable potential for hazardous exposure like contamination of air, soil and water. Also poor planning and handling of materials has bad effect on the construction project because delivering of materials requires great skills and care. Late delivery of materials at wrong time may affect the schedule of the whole project. In planning skills administrative and financial process of payment for materials can create great hurdles (Sohrah, 2009). Shortage of inspection skills for materials in the construction projects is very dangerous because if the materials are not of the appropriate quality and it passes the inspection tests due to the skills shortage of the person it will be potential risk for the people and the construction project.


New materials in construction industry are discovering which will change the production of materials, like grapheme which is not in use after its discovery but we can use it instead of steel and carbon fiber and also light in weight than both of these. Also the modern form of Roman concrete is discovered which is greener and tougher than its first form and also have more life span. In terms of waste the materials we get from construction of houses and demolishing are now recycled in new ways which are really safe and has good impact on the environment. According to the Environmental performance indicator (EPI) 19.2 cubic meter wastes per 100 square meters is obtained from these construction sites and in which more than half is recycled. For planning and handling of materials we have LPS (last planning system) which has been implemented to increase work flow on sites and workers can easily plan their strategies for materials delivery and its time schedules. The researchers offer three areas for future construction and production process like suggesting procedures for pointing practice technically highlight the problems with modern software applications and organizational improvements by applying last planning system.


Plant in the construction refers to machinery, equipment or apparatus used for in the industrial production activities. For plant and equipments in any construction project production are substantially influenced by design decisions. Construction equipments are one of the very important resources of modern day construction, especially in infrastructure projects. Maintenance and equipment planning are the two currently skills shortage we are facing regarding plant and equipments for construction work.


Plant and equipments maintenance and planning are important skill we need in the construction industry to prevent any problems and to ensure that construction equipments are working effectively. Maintenance and planning skills involve a routine of general or immediate inspection of equipments which could lead to a number of risks if not properly maintained. If the risks regarding the equipments are less, it means less dangerous contact with the machine is required and it will have a better cost of better productivity benefits and efficiency. Wrong maintenance and planning of equipments has caused many fatal injuries during or after the construction projects has been done. In construction industry if we want to do safe construction we have to focus on maintenance and planning of the construction equipments.


Construction equipments are constantly being developed to make every step of the construction projects easier, quicker, cheaper and safer. Construction plant and equipment range from small hand-held power tools to larger pieces of plant and equipment such as mechanical excavators and tower cranes and handling them in not proper way can make some serious impacts and consequences. The production can become less and the cost for the whole construction can become more. It also includes larger maintenance costs for the equipments.


Technology in this modern world is growing day by day and new inventions are taken place in every industry, also construction industry is going on numerous equipments are going under transformation. Increasingly, Building Information Modeling (BIM), and the development of Virtual Construction Models (VCM) are being used to organize construction works and the deployment of plant on site, in particular in relation to the use or cranes and other lifting equipment. Also 3D printing technology has been introduced which can make a house in less than 24 hours and can minimize the cost and other expenses.


The human productive resources necessary for the production in the construction industry are defined as human resources (Andrew Brown, 2019). The human resources here related to labor (Skilled craftsman, tradesman and professionals like engineers and architectures) and the method through which planning, management and recruitment of expert and managerial resources are required for construction is defined as human resource management. Human resources are fundamental to all industries, including the building industry. As claimed by Paul Manning, the chief officer of building company C. Raimondo and sons “maintain and wondering quality people is priority” (Tulacz, 2000). The skills shortage regarding to human resources has turn out to be trouble specifically in the construction industry in current years due to the fact there is a developing scarcity of qualified employees in that field. Levy similarly claims, “the scarcity of each professional trades-people and skilled managers will place extra emphasis on the need to increase the and extent of education in order to produce extra effective and productive workers” (Levy, 2000). The construction industry is heavily dependent on the adequate supply of a skilled labor force, and as a result the knowledgeable labour scarcity in the UK has obtained massive attention in recent years. With the current economic recovery, the enterprise is predicted to ride massive skills shortages in both traditional and new skills areas.

The changes in the procurement of the construction labour are the key thing in appreciating the skills situation on the construction production. The enterprise is often of very quick nature in which there is very less time for the operatives to know each other and to develop good teams. When labor is subcontracted, the direct employees of each subcontractor have more duration than a single project of construction to be aware of one another and to build fantastic teams. To cope with these degree of ineffectiveness in the construction industry approaches referred as ‘partnering’ and ‘framework agreements’ have been emerged. The main objective of these methods are that the workers should develop long term relationship with each other and share their experiences and professionalism of work with each other, so that each worker can gain some skills from each other.


UK construction industry is playing a basic role in the economy of the country; however the shortage of skilled human resources within the construction industry is becoming a challenge for this field. Now a day the construction industry of UK is trying hard to reach and cover areas for architectures and designers in field of civil engineering. In a report by the recruitment and employment confederation (REC), the human resources shortage in construction was defined as “Critical”. Although the number of vacancies in construction industry is rising but the number of skilled labors and professionals is hard to find. According to the construction industry training bound (CITB) more than 36,000 new workers will be needed to fulfill the demand of construction industry in UK. Royal institute of surveyors (RICS) says that 66% of the survey firms are closed because they did not have skilled human resources.


The construction industry currently is facing number of problems in which human resources skills shortage is a major one. Human resource skills shortage has bad impression on every industry because it acts like oxygen for any industry. The influences and consequences of human resources skills shortage will be on the apprentices entering into the construction field because when the recession hit the UK construction industry the number of workers entering into this field was greatly affected because of having low investment on training sessions. Furthermore many organizations and training companies have a shortage of staff capable or accessible to train, educate and give lectures on human management skills in the construction industry (Skill Development Scotland, 2017). Also human resources skill gap is currently recognized as a current problem in the construction industry due to which the cost and productivity level of any project is increased.


In order to improve the skills of human resources regarding construction production, there is need to work in the following areas like technical knowledge and experience skills, Professional skills and qualities and digital skills;


Technical knowledge and experience is generally specific to work and is developed by gaining experience and by doing specialized training. Technological and social changes inside construction industry have created growing need for human resources skills to advance in more interactive competencies skills required for specific role or work.


Professional skills and qualities are non-role particular expertise such as problem solving, communication that are transferable between roles and industries and thus enlarge the demand of an employee. As competences like teamwork and communication are at high demand in any industry and person having skills like these tends to be more employable.


Digital skills will help construction increases revenue, reduce cost and enlarge their productivity. An experience modification signifies an opportunity for construction sector to re-skill worker and contributes to the needs to discover an estimated one million new workers jobs of digital skills by 2024 (MACE, 2017).

Fig. 2 Source (Linzi Shearer, et al, 2018 p.19)


Production in the construction industry is viewed as form of “job” or unique and is characterized by product design, work force and mechanization. Production in the construction industry is reducing for over past 40 years. Today in the construction industry lean construction strategies is used to produce maximum amount of resources, minimize the waste of materials, time and cost. Lean production thinking argues that production consists of conversions and flows (Andrew Brown, 2019), in which conversion convert raw materials and flow process support the conversion. Some of the strategies are discussed which are used for the effective combination of the resources in the industry.


Concurrent engineering can be described as parallel execution of various resources by multidisciplinary teams with the goal of acquiring most beneficial produces regarding functionality, quality and productivity. Many enhancements can be executed through the use of concurrent engineering for future construction i.e. verbal exchange, sharing data and partnering with the subcontractors will be good for the construction industry for combining the resources in most effective way.


Visual inspection suggests the uneven nature of building resources and leads to the application of visible tools for materials, work and statistic flow etc. Identification of correct resources can speed up the construction process and can combine the resources in accurate manner. Information and technology can also enhance the communication between selection markers and can speed up the system for future construction works.


Local suppliers can be less expensive and supply specifications that in shape the nearby vernacular. Less transport will decrease charges and advantage the nearby neighborhood and environment. Reusing and recycling substances on site, and purchasing substances with a high recycled content, will have a comparable result, as well as saving on the aggregate Levy and landfill tax.


Daily huddle meetings provide a platform for the workers to discuss their views about the production of resources and to share what has been achieved. The purpose of these meetings is to also discuss problems the workers are facing during the production, so that they can be solved and the productivity of the resources can be combined in most effective way in the industry.


As an enterprise we need to take responsibility for our skills issues and collectively improve suitable solutions. We need to keep away from the threats of spiralling costs, eroding high-quality and increased accidents on site. Skills scarcity in the construction sector should not be viewed as a problem, however in a solution oriented industry we are about discovering solutions. In construction industry the training provision must be increased to attract and keep proper staff. The construction experts must commit continuing professional development if they want employers to make investments in their education and training. Employers in the construction industry should reward the employees with good opportunities in order to develop their skills and make a progress. If we want good production in the construction industry than skills are not enough, we have to view the productivity policies, do respect of workers, should balance the gender equality and provide effective social protection. These conclusions can help to improve the employability and skills shortages of the construction industry.


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