Community Stories

What we’re doing to plug the bricklaying skills gap

The skills gap in the UK labour market has been well documented over recent times. Construction is one of the hardest hit industries, with the double impact of Brexit and Covid-19 resulting in many EU migrant workers choosing to leave the UK. But the issue extends beyond that as we shall explore in this article along with what we at Forterra are doing to try and ensure future generations of young people seek to pursue a career in construction.

A recent Federation of Master Builders membership survey found that 45% of builders were struggling to recruit bricklayers. This isn’t a new phenomenon, the shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry has been reported for many years now and has shown little sign of abating.

One of the central challenges appears to be convincing young people to consider construction as a career. According to YouGov Omnibus research, only 3% of 18 to 24 year olds have searched for a job in the construction industry. The knock-on effects of this become greater each year as older workers retire without enough young people coming through to replace them.

When the government’s pledge to build 300,000 new homes each year is added into the equation, it’s clear that something needs to be done to make bricklaying and other trades more appealing as a career choice. To support this aim, and encourage long-term investment in the domestic UK workforce, in November 2020, the government set up the Construction Skills Delivery Group (CSDG), a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy/Department for Education led cross government collaboration with construction industry leaders. The CSDG ‘brings together government departments and industry leaders to improve progression routes into the sector, and develop opportunities for workers of all ages and career stages to upskill and reskill.’1

It’s something we believe strongly in here at Forterra and is why we have been supporting bricklaying courses at the UK’s further education colleges for many years with donations of bricks and sponsorship of skills competitions – after all, without bricklayers who will lay our bricks!

Forterra Construction Hubs: supporting further education colleges
This year, we are taking our support of further education bricklaying courses one step further by giving six colleges the opportunity to become Forterra Construction Hubs. As Hubs, the colleges will receive a donation of bricks so students have plenty of materials to work with during the year, as well as visual merchandise and, vitally, an insight into the industry via site visits and talks from visiting speakers who will shed light on the career opportunities available.

5% Club member
As members of the 5% Club, an industry led initiative focused on driving momentum into the recruitment of apprentices, graduates and sponsored students, Forterra is committed to raising the number of apprentices, sponsored students and graduates on our formal programmes to 5% of their total workforce within five years.

There is clearly a lot of work to be done to fill the skills gap, but we hope the work that we and other like-minded businesses are doing is a step in the right direction in giving young people a step onto the first rung of what has the potential to be a very rewarding career.

Apprenticeships at Forterra
As well as supporting colleges, each year, we offer up to 20 engineering apprenticeships. Covering all fields of engineering, the apprenticeship comprises a one-year residential course in the heart of Birmingham, followed by up to three years of work-based training at one of our UK facilities. On successfully completing the course, our apprentices will graduate from the programme with an NVQ Level 3 Certificate qualification, as well as hands-on experience working with an industry leader.

References
CCATF Apprenticeship Vision

Sources
https://www.ukconstructionmedia.co.uk
https://www.ft.com
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk
https://www.rolegroup.co.uk