SkillsPlanner’s partners and collaborators include a number of major infrastructure providers (Tideway, Crossrail, HS2 and Transport for London, for example), but that doesn’t mean we are ignoring the needs of other construction sectors, such as house-building. So we are particularly interested in the work of the National Housing Taskforce, convened by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS – another SkillsPlanner collaborator) and the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Housing & Planning.
The Taskforce has identified 12 workstreams with one particularly focused on construction skills, materials and technology:
We cannot achieve either the desired quality of quantity of new housing without addressing the skills gap that currently exists across the construction sector. Furthermore, there are unprecedented opportunities for improving productivity and driving down costs through the use of new construction techniques, such as off-site manufacture (OSM).
This work-stream is charged with addressing the main issues in the construction labour market, including availability, productivity and diversity. It will develop ideas for action for both government and industry, aimed at ensuring we have the capacity to deliver the homes we need.
Each work-stream is being led by a relevant organisation that will submit recommendations to the Taskforce by the end of the year, and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB, author of a 2015 report on the ageing workforce), has issued a call for evidence (to be submitted by 9 September 2016). CIOB policy manager David Hawkes said:
“At its most basic level, what this workstream boils down to is capacity. Studies have shown the housing sector needs 120,000 new employees just to meet the required annual level of homes the UK needs. At the same time, house builders say they cannot build more than 150,000 homes per year via conventional means.
“What this suggests to us is that something needs to fundamentally change if we are to properly address the housing crisis. We need more people working more productively and we have to work out how best to utilise and implement new technologies, materials and processes.”
Mr Hawkes said that the CIOB will analyse the responses it receives and then host ‘inquiry-style discussions’ before submitting its recommendations to the National Housing Taskforce by the end of the year. The final National Housing Taskforce report, incorporating recommendations from all 12 workstreams, is expected to be released by spring 2017.
We hope this initiative will helpfully coincide with the publication of the Farmer Review. When the UK government launched its Post-16 Skills Plan last month (post), it committed to taking action in response to the review commissioned from the Construction Leadership Council and Mark Farmer of the functioning of the labour market, including skills provision, in the construction sector.
Housing is also, of course, a particularly acute issue for London and the south-east – the target area for the initial SkillsPlanner project.
Update (24 August 2016) – New London Architecture is holding a free breakfast debate, “Are we facing a construction skills crisis in housing?” on Friday 30 September 2016. More details here.