Skills shortage will hamper housing delivery

Small house builders predict that skills shortages in the building industry will hamper housing delivery, and will eventually overtake access to finance as a bigger barrier to building new homes, according to new research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Key results from the FMB’s House Builders’ Survey 2018, include:

The percentage of SME house builders saying that a shortage of skilled workers is a major barrier to their ability to build more new homes rose to 44% (up from 42% in 2017).

A lack of available and viable land tops the list as the most commonly cited barrier (59%) to increasing housing delivery, and almost two-thirds of SME house builders (62%) believe that the number of opportunities for small site development are actually decreasing (up from 54% in 2017).

Nearly half of small house builders (46%) say access to finance is a major barrier to their ability to build more new homes.

More than half (51%) of SME house builders view the planning system as a major constraint on their ability to grow, and ‘inadequate resourcing of planning departments’ was again rated as the most significant cause of delay in the planning application process for the third year in a row.

When asked to look ahead over the next three years, more firms cited skills shortages as a likely barrier to growth than access to finance.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “The construction sector is heavily reliant on EU workers with just under one in ten workers in the sector born in the EU. Brexit, coupled with the end of free movement, threatens to further intensify the skills shortages we already face. Given that the UK will leave the EU in less than six months, house builders are understandably concerned that skills shortages could worsen and choke housing delivery.

“In order to combat this skills crisis, the construction industry needs to encourage more entrants into the industry and develop higher quality qualifications. It is critical therefore that the government doesn’t pull the rug out from under the sector by introducing an inflexible and unresponsive immigration system.”

Attracting more young people into the sector is top of the agenda for Arthur McArdle, the new national president of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Arthur McArdle was elected national president of the FMB on Saturday September 8 at the FMB’s National AGM and Conference in Bournemouth.

“I am extremely passionate about ensuring that we have enough skilled workers to help build the nation out of the housing crisis. The skills shortage the sector is facing is absolutely dire and the only way we can guarantee enough skilled construction workers in the future is by attracting more young people into the sector and training them to a high standard now.

“The construction industry is an extremely rewarding sector to work in and it should be viewed as such. I want construction to be a career of choice for young people.”

At the conference, Janet Etchells was voted in as the first female national vice president.