Britain trains ‘too many hairdressers and not enough bricklayers’

A construction skill shortage is undermining the Government’s pledge to build 275,000 affordable homes by 2020, a local authority body has warned today.


New analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales​, reveals a growing mismatch between the construction industry’s increasing demand for skills and a falling number of people gaining construction qualifications. 

Peter Box, chair of the LGA’s housing board, said: “For too long we’ve trained too many hairdressers and not enough bricklayers​. Too few apprentices are getting the construction skills to build the homes and roads our local communities need and developers are struggling to recruit the skilled labour to build new homes.”

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​As a result, over half (56 per cent) of vacancies in the sector are hard to fill, up from 46 per cent in 2011 and almost triple the proportion of skilled hard to fill vacancies across the economy as a whole. 

The LGA is calling on Government to work with the construction industry, councils and education providers to develop a national ‘Skills to Build’ strategy to solve this growing shortage, delivered locally through the devolution process.

“Industry is clear that skills gaps are one of their greatest barriers to building. If we are to see the homes desperately needed across the country built and jobs and apprenticeships created, councils must be given a leading role.”

“Although councils were best-placed to understand the needs of their residents, local businesses and economies, they currently have no influence over skills training and employment support in their area.

“In return for increased funding and powers, councils, schools, colleges and employers could work together to reduce unemployment, close this widening construction skills gap and ramp up housebuilding”, added Box. 

Previous LGA research has highlighted that between 16 and 25 per cent of forecast economic growth could be lost up to 2022 if employers cannot recruit the skills and capabilities that they need, which could include up to £24 billion of output from the construction sector.


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