With the skills shortage continuing to have an impact on the construction sector, new solutions must be explored to help alleviate the growing demand for talent. Skills mobility could be the answer for construction firms feeling the squeeze
It’s no secret to anyone within the industry that the skills shortage continues to be a growing worry. Talent remains difficult to find and the number of young, skilled workers entering the workforce is not currently meeting the expected demand for the next decade.
The sector’s most recent financial slump also adds a worrying state of affairs. The sector’s index dropped in September from 50.8 to 45, according to the CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index – the steepest decline since the pandemic.
Combine this with the abandonment of the HS2 project and the long-term plans for many firms seem to be at serious risk.
Of course, some might think that this could alleviate the immediate burden of sourcing more talent.
However, the current workforce is ageing, meaning more workers will be approaching retirement. And with fewer upcoming contracts available, companies will be less likely to afford new talent to fill their spaces.
So, how can construction companies help fill skills gaps without hiring more workers?
Integrating skills mobility
Upskilling existing employees can sound like an easy, cost-effective way of filling skills gaps within your organisation. However, companies must do this effectively.
Companies looking to upskill will often look first to the employee with the most capacity or the employee most interested in expanding their skillset.
As a result, this can often lead to an over-reliance on a particular employee or set of employees for re-occurring jobs, which will only exacerbate the issue later down the line.
Instead, companies should treat skills gaps within their business as holes that can be plugged by a variety of employees, spread evenly across the business.
Businesses that decide to increase skills mobility within their organisation should start by taking some time to outline all the employees within the company, their roles and current skillsets. From there, gaps within the business should be clearer
So, for example, if a forklift driver is required for a job, a handful of employees are trained and ready to fill that role when the opportunity arises.
Then, if an excavation vehicle operator is also needed, a different set of employees are also trained to fill that role.
This way, the business has a much greater scope of current skills and can plug gaps with reduced impact on the existing workforce, allowing the company to react in a more agile way when the need for skills arises.
Skills mobility also provides employees with the chance to design their own skills pathway, rather than following what is prescribed for them by their employer.
This can be achieved by creating internal jobs or skills boards, with employees encouraged to put themselves forward when interested.
This is a win-win as it leads to better skilled employees who are more motivated as they’ve chosen to be involved in specific projects or teams.
Businesses that decide to increase skills mobility within their organisation should start by taking some time to outline all the employees within the company, their roles and current skillsets.
From there, gaps within the business should be clearer, allowing employers to plan out how workforces can be trained to react to any missing skills that could be needed later down the line.
Agile skills require agile training
Equally important to the ability to react quickly to missing skills gaps is the need for agile training for your workforce.
Construction workers will voice that finding time throughout the day to dedicate one to two hours towards training is near impossible, especially when workload is high and deadlines grow tighter.
Agile training, therefore, allows workers to integrate training into their everyday work schedule with minimal impact.
The best learning format that supports this approach to training is micro-learning, designed to deliver a single learning outcome over a short lesson.
Not only does this enable more focused, concise learning, but its format often results in higher consequent employee retention. In fact, studies suggest it can be 18% more effective than traditional learning methods.
To supplement this, employers should also consider how the training is delivered to employees. Online training, accessible via mobile devices, gives employees the added benefit of being able to access training from anywhere at any time.
Is skills mobility the future of training?
As the construction sector continues to face ongoing challenges, it’s clear that new, innovative solutions are required to better help businesses plug skills gaps while recruitment remains a difficult option.
Those that integrate the concept of skills mobility into their business not only stand to gain an improved distribution of skills across their workforce, but can better prepare for future demand as their business continues to grow.
Rob Bright is the founder of Cloud Assess.