The UK construction industry has been grappling with the shrinking pool of skilled tradespeople, and now is on track to lose out on £98 billion of economic growth by 2030 due to a shortage of 250,000 tradespeople. Despite industry efforts, data by the Office of National Statistics unveiled the serious gender imbalance in the UK’s construction industry with only 15% of the workforce being female. As the industry needs to recruit 45,000 workers per year to meet government demands by 2027, experts discuss whether more women in the trades could be the remedy to this growing shortage. Clive Holland, broadcaster on Fix Radio – the UK’s only national radio station dedicated to builders – sheds light on this shrinking pool, emphasising the vital role tradespeople play in the economy. 

The demand for tradespeople is set to dramatically increase, particularly with improving energy efficiency as the government highlights their net zero targets. Electricians, carpenters, and joiners are expected to be in short supply, with the West and East Midlands projected to face the most significant deficits, each exceeding 35,000 skilled tradespeople. A survey found that the shrinking pool of skilled tradespeople is already impacting the country with 19% having to cancel or postpone a project in the last five years due to a lack of suitable tradespeople. 

By 2030, GDP growth in these regions is estimated to be reduced by £14.5 billion and £12.1 billion, according to research by Kingfisher and Cebr. These findings also highlight the economic benefits of increased gender diversity in the construction sector. Doubling the number of women in the industry could boost annual growth by over £800 million, but without action, the current predicted shortages may cost the nation up to £12 billion annually in missed economic growth by 2030.

Clive Holland, host of The Clive Holland Show on Fix Radio, shares his thoughts on how the skills deficit has affected the construction sector:

“The UK construction sector is facing a huge skills deficit – experienced tradespeople left the sector in droves during the pandemic and efforts to recruit young people into the trades are failing.
 
“According to government figures the number young people entering apprenticeships has fell by nearly 10% in the last year and the Construction Products Association estimated that over 220,000 workers have left the industry since the summer of 2019. The shortage of skills will make the building more expensive – last year saw 6% wage inflation.
 
“The construction industry is failing to address this growing problem. There needs to be a long-term strategy where construction firms and trade bodies work closely with the education sector and government agencies to achieve shared goals.”

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