Wales Needs 11,000 More Construction Workers

The need for more construction workers in Wales – and the UK as a whole – is a trend that’s been gradually getting worse over the past few years. Now, research suggests that by 2028, we’ll need 11,000 more construction workers in Wales to meet demand. 

Why do we need 11,000 more construction workers?

Taking into consideration the current projects planned for Wales over the next four years, the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) annual forecast suggests that 11,000 more construction workers will be required to complete the work.

Construction output needs are rising

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As plans for construction projects continue to rise, so does the need for more construction workers. The urgency for a recruitment drive isn’t just limited to Wales. In the UK as a whole, 250,000 construction workers will be needed by 2028 and the major opportunities will be in private housing, infrastructure, and repair and maintenance . 

Construction projects that are already driving demand in Wales

Within Wales, the CITB recognised several projects that are driving the demand for more workers. These include:

  • The Awel y Môr wind farm project off the coast of Llandudno
  • Work on the £590m Dowlais Top to Hirwaun section of the A465 Heads of the Valley Road 
  • Cardiff Council’s approved plans for the £360m Embankment site: 47 acres of brownfield land to the south of the city, to be regenerated to provide 2,500 homes, and 54,000 square metres of business space and opportunities for leisure, hospitality and retail 

Another potential project is the £1.7bn Blue Eden on Swansea’s waterfront, based around a newly designed tidal lagoon, featuring state-of-the-art underwater turbines.

High rate of retirement amongst construction workers

For almost a third (31%) of construction employers, finding suitably skilled staff remains their key challenge, particularly with more older workers retiring and not being replaced.

Sadly, the high rate of retirement among construction workers adds even more pressure on the workforce. A large proportion of construction workers are in their 50s, so within the next 10 – 15 years, our industry will lose a great number of skilled workers. 

Throw the uncertainty and chaos of the COVID pandemic and Brexit in the mix, and it’s clear to see why the retirement rate has increased in recent years. 

Other reasons that construction workers are leaving the workforce

Of course, we can’t just blame the lack of construction workers on external factors. Construction workers are also leaving the industry as they go in search of increased pay, better working conditions, and work that’s closer to home.

Skills gaps need to be narrowed

To narrow the skills gap, recruitment drives in construction need to catch children from an early age. Construction offers a huge range of opportunities for young people, and we should do more to shout about the exceptional skills a career in construction can develop.

Why are we unlikely to get 11,000 more construction workers?

Put bluntly, the majority of UK adults would not consider a career in construction. When that is the case, where would the 11,000 workers be found in Wales? There are several reasons we’re unlikely to get 11,000 more construction workers in Wales, including:

Lack of diversity

The majority of workers within the construction industry are male and of a similar age. As we already know, lack of diversity has resulted in a workforce where a huge group are due to retire within a short time. A lack of focus on improving diversity until recently, has resulted in less younger workers moving up through the ranks.

Debbie Petford, the Director of Legal and Commercial in the Building Engineering Services Association, said:that ‘[many of the sector’s senior managers]… continue to be worried about the lack of skills and diversity in the industry’s workforces, and the need to improve productivity by wider adoption of digital and off-site solutions which require new skillsets’.

Retirement is leaving a lower skilled workforce

As skilled workers retire, those already on the career ladder are yet to reach their full potential, and so the workers that remain are inevitably less knowledgeable than those retiring.

Brexit has left us with fewer options

Brexit caused many workers from outside of the UK to return home, hugely reducing the pool of skilled workers. Since Brexit, we haven’t been able to attract workers from outside of the UK. Our talent pool has reduced, and so we are forced to look at those already in other sectors. While those in another sector offer a good opportunity for recruitment, they are also harder to recruit as they are already established in their industry.

Construction companies are not paying enough

Low wages are one of the biggest barriers to attracting new talent. Unless our industry begins to increase wages to compete with other sectors (and to ensure workers are paid a fair wage for their skills and experience), workers will continue to choose other industries over our own.

The ticking time-bomb with a lack of compliance

Too many businesses are lax about their compliance procedures. A lack of compliance for the policies and procedures within the industry is guaranteed to have a knock-on effect. For example, small construction recruitment agencies that don’t adhere to the law will inevitably be closed down, leaving workers and clients bereft, and with a total lack of trust in our industry.

How can you make sure you get the construction workers you need?

With construction workers in such high demand in Wales, you need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to source the right workers for your projects.

Pay well and provide good working conditions

Be the employer your workers want you to be.

Pay workers the going rates and make sure that their working conditions are fair. With over a quarter of construction workers taking time off in the last year because of poor mental health, providing good working conditions has never been more important.

Keep on top of the pay rates in your area, or rely on a company like P.I.E.R to do the hard work for you.

Be prepared to train your workforce

Investing in your workers is one of the best ways you can grow loyalty. Offer training to your workers so that they can upskill and expand their experience. In return, you’re likely to have workers who are willing to stay with your projects for the duration. 

Make sure you meet the latest compliance measures 

Keep on top of your compliance policies and demonstrate to your workers that you’re a reliable place to work. Another way to quickly build loyalty is to demonstrate your commitment to the policies and procedures that regulate our industry, and protect our workers.

Use P.I.E.R to help you

At P.I.E.R we pride ourselves on offering our clients a service that will take their projects from concept to completion. We can help you overcome the challenges in construction recruitment, and make sure you have the workers you need at each stage of your project.

Early intervention is key to make sure we can provide you with the best service. Get in touch for a quick consultation call, or schedule a no-obligation meeting today.

Whether you’re looking for mechanical engineers, electricians’ mates, labourers, or managers, we can source workers with the skills and experience you need.

With the pool of talent available getting smaller by the day, P.I.E.R can help you build a workforce with the skills and experience you need, and one that won’t jump ship when better rates come along.


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