Scotland business

Scotland-wide construction worker shortage warn experts

house building site Image copyright Getty

More construction workers are needed to address Scotland's housing shortage, industry experts have said.

An independent group commissioned by the Scottish government has made 40 recommendations to boost the sector and close the skills gap.

Shortages of bricklayers, joiners, painters and decorators need to be addressed with better training facilities, they concluded.

The group said the shortfalls were most acute in the Highlands and islands.

About 7,000 fewer homes a year are being built in Scotland than are needed.

The Scottish government is urged to review the clarity and quantity of its construction skills funding "actually reaching the sector for training", particularly for small and medium-sized firms.

Creating a construction minister for Scotland or a senior civil servant for this sector is also recommended.

The housing and construction skills short life working group was established in 2018. Members included house builders, industry organisations, college, university, public sector, training and skills organisations.

Skills shortages

Group chairman Prof Sean Smith, director of sustainable construction at Napier University, said: "Ensuring there is the correct supply of appropriate skilled staff to deliver the required housing and future types of technologies for design, management and construction is critically important."

He said the coming decade will be one of the "most innovative and transformative periods for the housebuilding sector".

"In the short term there are skills supply shortages and an ever pressing need for more homes to be built," he added.

"Given the range of potential changes in future new home power supplies, smart technologies, energy saving devices, electric vehicle charging and self-powered homes, the coming period presents challenges but also exciting opportunities for new skill sets, workforce diversity, new entrants and their careers."

Image copyright PA
Image caption At least 28,000 new homes will need to be built every year for the next 10 years to meet demand experts say

Further recommendations include investing in colleges to upgrade training facilities to deal with new technologies, setting up graduate apprenticeships to increase the number of local authority building and planning officers, and establishing a construction skills and professions council for Scotland.

As well as the Highlands, south east Scotland has been identified as having acute construction skills gaps, with an estimated shortage of 300 bricklayers alone.

The report suggests early engagement in primary and secondary schools and better use of social media to promote the sector could help attract new workers.

Speaking at the Homes for Scotland annual conference in Edinburgh, communities secretary Aileen Campbell welcomed the report recommendations.

She said: "We are already working collaboratively with industry, education, skills bodies and local authorities on programmes to develop the workforce required for major house building projects.

"We need a housing system that works for us all, that is dynamic enough to adapt to future challenges and is resilient in the face of them."

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