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UKCW Blog

27 Jun 2024

UKCW MANIFESTO ROUNDUP: WHAT EACH VICTORY COULD MEAN TO THE CONSTRUCTION SKILLS SHORTAGE

UKCW MANIFESTO ROUNDUP: WHAT EACH VICTORY COULD MEAN TO THE CONSTRUCTION SKILLS SHORTAGE

(Photo credit: Nick Kane via Unsplash)

 

The CITB Construction Skills Network (CSN) report states that 225,000 new construction workers are needed by 2027 to meet demand. With Polling Day now fast approaching, major parties have released their manifestos for the 2024 General Election, outlining what the UK public can expect if they come to power. UK Construction Week supports initiatives addressing the housing shortage but calls on the next government to take more action on tackling mental health and to address the major skills gap facing the sector. For details on each party's plans to support future construction workers, our General Election roundup blog has everything you need to know. 

 

Conservatives – The apprenticeship boost 

To address the construction skills shortage, the Conservative Party pledged to invest in apprenticeships. Last month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stated that 100,000 more apprenticeships will be launched in England yearly by 2029, the end of the next parliament. The policy, set to cost £885 million by 2029/30, would result in apprenticeships rising to around 440,000, comes amid plans to shut down underperforming university courses in the UK.  

The party has said they will increase the apprenticeship budget to fund the places that would have otherwise gone on student loan subsidies for around 13% of students facing the prospect of their courses being discontinued under the newly empowered Office for Students. 

The Conservative Party’s Manifesto states:” We will fund this by changing the law to close university courses in England with the worst outcomes for their students. Courses that have excessive drop-out rates or leave students worse off than had they not gone to university will be prevented from recruiting students by the universities regulator. This will protect students from being missold and the taxpayer from having to pay where the graduate can’t.” 

 

Labour Party – Introducing Skills England 

The Labour Party seeks to address the skills shortage by introducing a comprehensive strategy for post-16 education, meaning guaranteed training, an apprenticeship, or help to all 18- to 21-year-olds to find employment. More importantly, when elected, the party will be launching an initiative called Skills England to unite business, training providers and unions with national and local government to ensure the UK has highly trained workforce needed to deliver Labour’s Industrial Strategy.  

According to Labour’s plans, Skills England will also work with the Migration Advisory Committee to make sure training in England accounts for the overall needs of the labour market. As part of this strategy, the Further Education colleges will also be transformed into specialist Technical Excellence Colleges that will work with businesses, trade unions, and local government to provide young people with better job opportunities.  

To fix the current broken Apprenticeships Levy, the party will also introduce a flexible Growth and Skills Levy with Skills England consulting on eligible courses to ensure qualifications offer value for money. 

 

manifesto skills blog - 1

 

Liberal Democrats – Launching Lifelong Skills Grants 

The Liberal Democrats’ Election manifesto addresses the current skills shortage by investing in people’s skills. When elected, the Lib Dem will transform the broken apprenticeship levy into a broader and more flexible skills and training scheme. To boost the take-up of apprenticeships, apprentices will be paid at least the National Minimum wage by removing the lower apprentice rate. 

The manifesto also sets out the launch of new Lifelong Skills Grants available for adults to spend on education and training throughout their lives. Furthermore, to ensure the UK is equipped with the green workforce needed to deliver net zero, the Liberal Democrats will be developing National Colleges functioning as national centres of expertise for key sectors, like renewable energy, to deliver the high-level vocational skills that businesses require.  

Additionally, the party will be addressing and attempting to resolve skills gaps, such as the shortage of advanced technicians, by enhancing higher vocational training programmes such as foundation degrees, Higher National Diplomas, Higher National Certificates, and Higher Apprenticeships. 

 

Green Party 

A recent report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) indicates that there are currently an estimated 270,000 workers in the oil and gas sector able to transfer their skills towards delivering net zero. However, approximately 20% of them are expected to retire by 2030, leaving only 216,000 transferable workers available to help fill the 400,000 jobs required in sectors like nuclear, hydrogen and renewables, strongly highlighting a green energy skills gap of around 200,000 workers. This must be addressed immediately if the UK is to meet its net-zero target. 

Elected Greens will advocate for investing £4 billion annually in skills and training, including retrofitting, to prepare workers for the transition and the new roles they can undertake, equipping workers to “play a full role in the green economy”. The manifesto also highlights an additional £12bn investment in skills and lifelong learning for further education, further easing the skills shortage looming over the sector. 

Sam Patel, Divisional Director at UK Construction Week commented: “We welcome all of the key parties’ pledges to build more houses, but more needs to be done to bring young talent into the industry to address the skills gap; it’s vital that our government addresses the spiralling numbers of suicides in construction; and we urgently need a streamlined planning process.” 

“The UK construction industry employs over 1.5 million people and contributes more than £130 billion to the economy, so it’s vital that the sector’s voice is heard by the next government," he added. 

 

manifesto skills blog - 2

 

The construction industry faces a critical skills shortage, and the 2024 General Election offers a prime opportunity for transformative change. Addressing workforce needs is essential to meet housing demand. By prioritising the sector’s needs and hearing its voice, the next administration can create a stable environment while taking meaningful steps to address the issues facing the industry. 

UK Construction Week stands with the construction sector and aims to provide an exclusive platform for changemakers to come together and address key concerns affecting the state of UK housebuilding and its future talent. 

 

Join us from October 1-3 at the NEC for transformative conversations - secure your complimentary ticket here

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