Construction employment to top 2.6 million this year

Map showing number of new recruits required annually in construction.

The number of people working in construction this year is expected to exceed 2.6 million for the first time since 2009, as the industry continues to grow buoyed by the prospect of large infrastructure projects like Hinkley Point C and HS2 coming on stream.

According to the latest Construction Skills Network report from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), construction output is expected to grow by 1.7% over the next five years, with 179,000 jobs to be created. 

Having come through a year of unprecedented political and economic uncertainty, the early indications are that the construction sector will continue to grow from 2017 to 2021, with infrastructure spend carrying much of the weight in the coming years.

However, the good news is largely dependent on three ‘megaprojects’ - Hinkley Point C and Wylfa Newydd nuclear power stations and High Speed 2 - starting their main works on time, underlining the importance of project delivery to the sector’s growth.

Infrastructure accounts for 45% of 2017-2021 construction growth, with private house building the next best performing sector with average annual increases of 2.2%. From a regional perspective, the report says that Wales, south west, London and the north west will grow strongly, while Scotland and the north east will see a decline.

The report predicts that skills shortages are likely to become more acute in the medium term with a number of specialist trades in which demand is expected to be particularly high. The largest rise in vacancies are for carpenters (3,850 per year), electricians and insulators (2,250), and other construction professionals and technical staff (2,240). While job growth is due to be slower, construction will still need 35,740 new workers per year, the report says.

Steve Radley, director of policy at the CITB, said: “We expect construction to keep defying the economic headwinds, with almost half of its  growth coming from Hinkley, HS2 and Wylfa and other infrastructure projects. These huge projects give our industry a great chance to seize the initiative on skills and start investing in the next generation and upskilling the current one. So it’s vital that we don’t throw this opportunity away by allowing these projects to slip or get squeezed together and worsen the pressure on key skills.” 

Sarah Beale, Chief Executive at CITB, said: “While we are forecasting slower growth for our industry than we were last year, employers will still be creating tens of thousands of new jobs. We will be working with employers to attract new talent into our industry and to train them for rewarding careers in the sector.

“While we have factored Brexit into this forecast, there remain many unknowns to life after leaving the EU. We will be working with our industry to understand what it means for our migrant workforce and what we must do to attract and grow more of our own,” said Beale.

Click here to download the latest Construction Skills Network report.

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