How to Address the Talent Crisis in the Construction Sector

Written by Investors In People

The UK construction industry is facing a labour shortage. A lack of qualified candidates has been a growing concern amongst construction companies for a number of years.

In 2020 alone, UK organisations spent £6.6 billion* to help cover short-term gaps resulting from skill shortages. Unfortunately, as time passes the impact of the labour shortage, particularly within construction, becomes more pressing.

In this article, we will be taking a closer look at the labour shortage in the construction sector and how to address it.

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What is a Labour Shortage?

Unfortunately, labour shortages within the construction industry are common. Otherwise referred to as talent crises, labour shortages refer to a lack of qualified construction workers being available to help fill vacant positions. 

When employers fail to hire the talent they need, due to a shortage of qualified applicants, they face a labour shortage within that area. This has a significant impact as employers lack the staff they need to get projects done.

What is the Impact of the Labour Shortage in Construction?

Let’s take a look at three of the most significant ways the labour shortage is affecting the construction industry.

Cost

The primary impact of the labour shortage on the construction sector is cost. When it’s difficult for employers to source staff, recruitment costs increase because it takes more time and effort to find the right workers, with the right accreditations, at the right time. This has resulted in many construction companies overpaying new employees so they can secure the skills in short supply.

Temporary Staffing

In addition to rising costs, another impact of the labour shortage is having to hire temporary workers. When employers can’t find the staff they need, their only option is to hire temporary workers who can fulfil their project needs for the short-term and this comes at a higher cost.

Rejecting Work

Unfortunately, one of the biggest impacts of labour shortages within construction is having to reject work. When employers can’t find the workers they need they are unable to fulfil the work required and have no choice but to reject upcoming contracts. This can have huge repercussions to their reputation within the industry, causing them to lose out on upcoming projects because they are seen as unreliable.

So, what can be done to avoid these problems and address construction’s labour shortage?

Upskill Existing Employees

One of the best ways to address the labour shortage in construction is to upskill existing employees to fulfil vacant positions. Upskilling existing workers lets employers make use of their resources, budget, and staff for the benefit of the company.

According to SumUp, “Giving employees targets to hit and opportunities to grow within the business helps motivate them and gives purpose to their tasks […] Motivating employees is important because many people, even if they generally like their job, switch jobs if they feel they’re at a dead end.”

Working for companies that offer progression is important to many people looking to join the construction sector and can be a great way to attract interested applicants.

How to Upskill Your Employees

Upskilling is seen by many as one of the best ways to beat the talent in construction. It builds resilience within companies and helps organisations tackle challenges more effectively as they arise.

However, upskilling employees can take time. As the employer, you have to create opportunities and provide training to engage and train up your employees. To successfully upskill your employees, you need to build a culture of learning. A great way to do this is to join our workplace accreditation scheme

We work with employers to improve workplace culture, working conditions, and employee development. Not only does our workplace accreditation scheme support employers in improving their company, but it also supports the attracting and hiring of new employees – helping tackle the labour shortage.

Launch Apprenticeship Programmes


According to a YouGov survey, almost half (45%) of the UK public agree that apprenticeships are better than university degrees**. This is because apprenticeships provide practical skills and real-life experiences that help prepare young people for their future careers.

However, construction employers report it’s difficult to recruit apprentices. This could be due to a number of factors. For example, in the UK the current National Minimum Wage for an apprentice is £4.81 per hour***. Low pay, alongside deterring factors such as early starts, long working hours, exposure to the elements, and drug and alcohol tests are all causing a decline in apprenticeship applicants.

How to Launch Apprenticeship Programmes

To help you launch an apprenticeship programme within your company, we’re here to help. Join our apprenticeship accreditation programme and address the labour shortage by attracting the right people to your company and creating a supportive environment in which they can learn.

To achieve success with the launch of your apprenticeship programme, your aim is to generate excitement and we can help you do that. With our guidance you can create a buzz within the job sector, attract candidates, and promote and develop apprenticeships within your company.

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Promote Highly-skilled Jobs


The UK construction industry is facing a significant labour shortage and one of the predominant causes is an ageing workforce. Unfortunately, as workers reach retirement age there are fewer people entering into construction to replace them. This is having a direct impact on companies fulfilling their contracts and completing projects on time.

One thing holding many people back from working in construction is the assumption the industry requires low-skilled, manual labour workers. However, this is simply not the case. In fact, there are many jobs within construction that require highly-skilled workers such as architects and electricians and these need to be more widely promoted. Perhaps if people were aware of the wide variety of positions available within construction, there would be a higher number of applicants.

How to Promote Highly Skilled Jobs

To attract highly skilled workers, you first need to understand who it is you’re looking for. A great way to work this out is to create candidate personas. This allows you to outline your ideal employee, from their skills to experience. Creating candidate personas is an excellent way to confirm who it is you’re looking for and what kind of worker would be the ideal fit for the position. It’s also helpful information you can pass on to your hiring team and will significantly boost your chances of hiring the right person for the job.

Once you know who you’re looking for you can leverage social media as a tool for promoting job openings and connecting with potential employees. You should also request referrals from your employees. Do they know someone who’d be a good fit? Employee referrals are an effective way to source new and experienced workers to add to your team. Finally, when you’re promoting the position to potential applicants you want to sell in a way that draws them in. This means heavily promoting the following:

  • The candidate’s potential for growth within the company
  • The potential growth of your organisation
  • Your company culture
  • The potential for growth within the advertised role


Applicants want to know why they should apply to your company and what they can get out of it. Nobody wants to be stuck in a dead-end job. So, promote what’s important to them. This way, you’re more likely to attract and hire highly skilled workers.

Click here for more advice on attracting and retaining the best talent.

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Prioritise Workers’ Health and Wellbeing

Many organisations around the UK are measuring employee mental health and wellbeing at work and making proactive changes based off this information. This is having a significant impact on the attraction and retention of staff across a wide range of industries.

Within construction, the mental health and wellbeing of workers has often been a difficult subject. In fact, almost half of construction workers admit to finding mental health difficult to talk about, with many feeling it’s taboo within the industry. As a result, many are leaving construction for good, exacerbating the labour shortage.

Prioritising workers’ mental health and wellbeing is having a significant impact on hiring success within the construction sector. Employers can prioritise mental health within the workplace by; offering paid-for counselling, flexible working options, open door policies, mental health training days, buddy systems, and so much more.

At IIP we believe that “Maintaining a healthy team is not only an ethical priority for organisations but has also been shown to reduce costs, sickness, accidents and absenteeism whilst improving profitability, turnover and staff retention.” Prioritising mental health and wellbeing within the construction industry will help employers tackle the labour shortage and improve business retention and performance.

Find out how you can plan and execute an employee wellbeing strategy within your workplace.

Final Words

By following the strategies outlined in this article, we feel confident that employers can proactively address the labour shortage within the construction sector. By providing training, apprenticeships, mental health support, and high-skill jobs, construction employers will likely see a boost in interested applicants and enjoy more success within the sector.

* CHAS – “Tackling the Skills Shortage in Construction”

** YouGov – “Are apprenticeships better than university degrees for young people?”

*** Gov.UK – “Become an apprentice”

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Investors in People have been working with a huge range of big and small organisations from Public Sectors, SMEs, Charities, PLCs and anything in between for over 30 years. We have accredited more than 50,000 organisations and our  accreditation is recognised in 66 countries around the world, making it the global benchmark when it comes to people management. So we know we speak your language and can offer the specific kind of support and guidance your organisation needs.

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