Our team went along to UK Construction Week to hear what leading industry experts had to say.

The annual UK Construction Week took place at ExCel London (7 -9th May), setting the tone for the future of the construction industry and exploring the wider issues effecting the sector.

Sustainability PR Director Natalie Daniels, Senior Account Manager Charlotte Radcliffe and Junior Account Manager Erin Roberts attended on the day, summarising their thoughts on the future of the construction industry…

One of the biggest challenges the industry faces is a major skills shortage.

Indeed, a recent report by the UK Trade Skills Index revealed that 244,000 qualified apprentices would be required to fill the skills gap by 2032.

As well as recruitment, there are also a host of other solutions to tackle the skills shortage such as implementing green skills, upskilling the current workforce and driving the conversation around mental health.

Having tuned into the many conversations and presentations at the annual event, here are our key takeaways.

Wellness in the workplace

For the first time, we have a mixture of four defined generations in our workforce: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers. This means there’s lots of different opinions and perspectives on how to do things and a possible source of tension, especially surrounding mental health.

Although sometimes considered a post-covid issue, data suggests that mental health in this sector has historically been an issue.

In 2020, workers in construction were at some of the highest risk of suicide in the country, at 3.7 times higher than the national average, showcasing that mental health and wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of the conversation

As wider social and economic factors continue to be the leading cause of mental health issues, we need to be doing everything we can to tackle health and wellbeing in the industry and challenging the stigmas around mental health in particular for men.

There is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach with a mixture of four generations of workers, so an array of educational workshops, training roundtables, social media campaigns, better pay and an emphasis on work life balance needs to be considered.  

Upskilling and attracting the next generation

There is a huge employment gap when it comes to construction and one way to tackle this is through targeting young people and those who are self-employed. Young people need to understand what an exciting and varied career construction provides. It is not just construction on the building site, it is everything from designing homes in factories, land and planning to the selling of the homes.

One way to target young people is to start at grass roots level and visit schools and colleges. Planting the seed early and letting the next generation know the vast array of opportunities available as early as possible. Using social media is also an effective tool to reaching audiences; they are much more likely to see this then a TV advertisement or jobs on Indeed.

The use of technology is also a big part of the need of upskilling the current workforce. Technology presents opportunities to increase productivity in the industry, such as with digital twins. This is where you create a digital replica of a building, to manage the construction process, timelines, budget and health and safety while building at the same time.

Skills for a greener future

We heard from lots of training companies who run upskilling workshops for those looking to move from self-employment to corporate, as well as those looking to learn new skills, such as retrofitting and new modern methods of construction (MMC).

Modern methods of construction are a good thing for sustainable construction, and it is favourable as it’s much quicker, safer and can be quality controlled better. Another key focus for sustainability is embodied carbon, and making sure our workforce understands its impact on our environment is crucial.

The role of smart technology in decarbonising our buildings will also be a fundamental part of construction roles moving forward. We need for low-carbon operating systems, post-occupancy evaluations as well as audited systems and direct behavioural interventions needed to bring down operational carbon.

In the final thoughts at UK Construction Week, a panel of speakers spoke on decarbonising our homes. They all agreed that building a home to last 60 years just isn’t enough anymore, emphasising they the UK needs long-term strategic thinking and creative designs for homes that will last 120 years, which will require a holistic and creative workforce.

As this industry grows in sustainability and technology, we need a new diverse talent pool to meet the UK’s housing demand that is both high-quality and climate neutral.

For more insights on the issues facing construction and the built environment, why not get in touch with BR to see how we can help.