With heightened pressure to fill skills gaps as quickly as possible, it is crucial for employers to understand the dangers of rapid upskilling and the importance of prioritising training
It’s no secret that the skills shortage is having a monumental impact on the construction sector.
In 2017, the construction industry saw 13,981 skills-shortage vacancies across the UK. The most recent figures from September 2023 show that 36,086 vacancies are now due to the skills shortage – a whopping increase of 158%.
What’s more, the latest Construction Skills Network (CSN) report cites that the industry will need 225,000 construction workers by 2027.
Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) doesn’t show any sign of this changing, with the sector’s annual output continuing to rise and hitting its highest ever in 2022 of £181 million.
With this in mind, construction firms are under more pressure than ever to expand and upskill their workforce to keep up with ongoing demand. However, this can often mean that fundamental considerations, such as employee safety, are overlooked.
As a result, firms are putting their employees at potential risk of serious injury, liable to consequent company fines and even jail time.
So, how can employers better protect their workforce while it is continuously growing?
Tailored training for your workforce
It’s easy for an employer to simply opt for the cheapest training strategy for employees, but this isn’t always the most cost-effective solution in the long term.
Training that doesn’t truly meet the needs of your employees can leave you financially vulnerable to costly mistakes and potential lawsuits.
It’s crucial that employees are not only provided with rigorous training, but training where the needs of the employee are at the centre.
Employers must ask questions, such as:
- How do they best learn?
- What learning delivery is preferred?
- How do they balance work and learning?
With most construction workers required onsite for most of the day, finding time to squeeze in training can be difficult. Therefore, one of the best ways you can tailor your available training is by offering multiple forms of training delivery.
Online training, for example, offers employees the chance to integrate training into their work schedule using a mobile device, without the need to attend an in-person class.
In addition, flexible, self-paced courses allow employees to choose how much they wish to digest at a time.
This training delivery makes it easier to schedule and complete, which has been cited as one of the greatest barriers to learning.
Those looking to improve the training of their team, therefore, should consider online training that can be delivered in short doses to best suit the needs of their workforce.
These methods, of course, will not suit every employee, so it’s also important that you offer additional forms of delivery to suit each employee’s learning style – whether that’s traditional in-person classroom learning, conducted on or offsite, or even online classroom learning.
Create a training culture to improve retention
Learning opportunities have been cited in three of the top five reasons why people look for a new job.
As safety is vital in the construction sector, employees who feel well equipped and trained to do their jobs will be more confident and happy, and feel valued.
With this in mind, it’s important to consider that training can actually serve as a fantastic retention tool as well as a means to ensure safety.
Since Covid-19 and the Great Resignation, more employees are concerned with the available training at their workplace and their future career path.
Worryingly, Gartner cited that only one in four employees in 2022 voiced confidence about their career in their organisation and three out of four were considering a new role.
An improved training programme can offer those employees a chance to not only improve their skills for their current role, but better outline the skills required to progress their careers within the company.
For the construction sector, this could mean an employee progressing into a specialised role such as a health and safety officer.
To begin working towards this, the employee would need high-quality health and safety training. Access to this training can have a profound effect on consequent job performance and confidence, helping to improve overall employee satisfaction and morale.
On top of this, a study with Oxford Business School found that happier employees are 13% more productive, meaning employees not only feel engaged and valued by their employer, but have higher levels of performance.
Prioritising safety in the fight for talent
With the rush to find talent in the construction industry as demand continues to increase, training can’t be overlooked.
Training plays such a crucial role in not only helping to improve safety, but actively sourcing and retaining new employees.
By arming employees with the skills to carry out their roles effectively, training creates a happier, more productive workforce.
It is crucial, therefore, that those looking to expand their teams over the coming years ensure that training is prioritised in budgets and best serves the needs of their employees.
Fail to do so, and employers can risk much more than the fight for talent.
Richard Stockley is managing director of RRC International.