Will Brexit Force Us To Solve The STEM Skills Crisis and Invest in Younger Generations?

The UK Construction Week, which saw a wide spectrum of the construction trade come together for three days in Birmingham (10th-12th October), saw emphasis put on discussing and evaluating the positive impacts of Brexit.

Although the construction market is expected to grow over the next twelve months, a previous survey by OnePoll revealed that 53% of construction workers are concerned about a Brexit-induced skills gap.

The survey conducted by the UK Construction Week looked at the thoughts of over 2,500 industry leaders, shows a more positive mind-set, with 64% of respondents believed that Brexit will force us to solve the skills shortage by investing in younger generations and encouraging them into the sector.

Highly skilled workers are needed, and Julie Ward, MEP and keynote speaker, said during the UK Construction Week: “The UK is facing a skills shortage within construction, engineering and technician roles.

If we have skills shortages now, then any future restriction on the movements of EU international skilled workers through Brexit will seriously hamper the successful delivery of these projects and regional prosperity.”

In September, the CITB invested £1.2m on 16 plant stimulators, in order to fill the operator skill gap. As part of a wider challenge to find 5000 new plant operators over the next five years.

Trainees and apprentices are able to test drive excavators, cranes, crawler dozers, telehandlers, tractors and dumper trucks amongst the wide range of plant machinery.

New initiatives and technologies are vital in helping to fill the skills gap, but getting young people into the profession via new colleges and apprenticeships is also key.

Barry Cullen of Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said: “With Britain set to leave the European market, we must ensure that we are not left in a skills vacuum.”

According to Engineering UK, Britain will need at least 182,000 people with engineering skills each year until 2022 to deliver major projects such as HS2. The newly introduced apprenticeship levy is sure to increase the industry’s pool of talent.

The new apprenticeship levy sees larger businesses paying into a pot that smaller and medium sized firms can use to help with the costs of taking on an apprentice. Not only that, but the fund can be used to upskill existing staff.

Long term planning around infrastructure is seen as an important factor in the skills debate, allowing companies to future proof their workforce, invest in training and make sure they are constantly developing the skills they need to take on new challenges.

Whilst leaving the EU poses challenges and uncertainties, the construction industry is looking ahead to what positive outcomes Brexit could bring, and how it could be a big boost for British Builders.

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