Approaching the skills gap

Shaun Wadsworth, training manager, CFA

BACK in April 2019, Build UK asked the wider construction industry to complete a training and skills survey. As a Build UK member, the CFA was asked to contact our contractor members to help complete the survey.

The survey was designed to assess the provision of training, issues around recruitment and the skills needs for the industry to help tailor Build UK projects in the future.

The survey covered three interesting areas, inspirations for encouraging training, current apprenticeships and recruitment across the board, three topics I myself have tried to look at in previous articles.

The results of this survey report show contractors are going to great lengths to interact with potential workers as listed in the table below. Additionally, Build UK and CITB are backing projects such as ‘construction ambassadors’, ‘open doors’, ‘work experience’, ‘Go Construct’ and ‘bridge into construction’. Ultimately, contractors are still finding it increasingly to recruit skilled workers.

33% of construction companies work with schools to provide construction careers information
55% of construction companies offer some form of work experience
35% of construction companies found it ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ to recruit skilled workers over the last quarter.
* data from Build UK Training and Skills Survey – April 2019

But this news isn’t new information; the flooring industry faces a real fight to find skilled workers to the point where trade associations and manufacturers are trying to help contractors find the staff they need.
Unfortunately, as good as this information is it does represent the wider construction industry and it’s hard to gauge how much of that is contributed to floorlaying. This got me thinking:

What does the CFA do to identify and combat skills shortages?
The short answer is lots! I’ve included in various articles about how I’m contactable for any training issues for members as a free service as part of CFA membership, we readily and frequently publish training opportunities and access to a wide range of training courses and qualifications (all readily available in the CFA Training Guide).

The CFA council has also worked to develop a Trailblazer Apprenticeship ready to deliver in 2019 and we continually attend CITB and Build UK events to update members.

Another good indicator for identifying skills shortages is the CFA Membership Return. This is a questionnaire and mandatory requirement for CFA contractor members to provide analytics on key areas of the contract flooring businesses and ensures the high standards needed for membership are maintained. It also provides us with information so we can respond in an informed manner when consulted about our membership and the flooring sector.

This data for 17/18 provided key information that the CFA can pinpoint next steps to helping the industry approach the skills gap. For example, the industry has always been heavily reliant on subcontracted labour which in principle is a sensible way of ensuring the right number of fitters are needed at the right time. This does however cause issues in trying to bring new labour into the industry.

CFA data shows out of a total work force of more than 8,000 fitters, 45% of that workforce is subcontracted labour. Members also identified they’d need an additional 11% increase in current labour numbers to meet demand, just for CFA contractor members alone that’s over 900 additional fitters. Finally, 40% of CFA contractor members have at least one apprentice and 35% require additional labour excluding the apprenticeship.

This clearly shows there’s not one clear path to take to approach the skills gap and the CFA is fully aware of that. We’ll soon be engaging in research with contractors, floorlayers, schools, training providers and manufacturers to develop a strategy in which there are multiple entry points into training clearly laid out for any budding floorlayers.

This is where we feel the next steps are helping the industry by helping introduce a recruitment method to find people to move onto training programmes. This will be backed by a marketing plan aimed at ensuring the wider public are aware of these opportunities and how to access them.

We’d like as many people as possible to be involved in that research when it begins so don’t hesitate to contact me directly to discuss this in more detail.
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