The building industry says the sector is facing a retirement cliff with one in five builders aged over 50 and wants the government to improve training to avoid a housebuilding slump.

The Homebuilder Federation, HBF’s latest workforce census revealed just one in four students gained employment after completing a full-time construction course. The trade body said this showed the UK education system was failing to deliver ‘practical and employable’ skills.

HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: “As the country’s demand for energy-efficient homes grows, the government must introduce measures to ensure students leave the education system ready for work. Investment in the skills and education of the labour force is critical in ensuring this country has the knowledge and expertise needed to deliver the homes of the future.”

One in five of the 14,000 respondents were from overseas with 16 per cent from EU countries, a fall of two per cent compared with census figures for 2017. Non-European participants accounted for just under four per cent of respondents, nearly double the proportion in 2017.

Reliance on foreign labour was greatest in the capital, with more than half of London’s workforce made up of EU or European Economic Area nationals and 14 per cent from other overseas nations.

Closer industry collaboration needed to develop homegrown workforce

“With 30,000 more skilled workers required to build every additional 10,000 homes, there is growing urgency for government to invest in building and developing the house building workforce if it’s serious about achieving its 300,000 per annum target,” said Mr Baseley.

Roles particularly in demand include bricklayers, groundwork or plant operatives and joiners.

The HBF would like to see the government collaborate more with industry to attract, train and develop a skilled and expert home building workforce.

Nearly 60 per cent of SME home builders reported difficulties in recruiting site-based roles in HBF’s 2023 State of Play report.

Brokers Hank Zarihs Associates said development finance lenders had noticed that challenges in hiring the right staff often contributed to projects finishing behind schedule.

The 2023 census revealed the on-site home-building workforce is still overwhelmingly male, with 96 per cent of respondents identifying as male. However, a larger proportion of female respondents held supervisory roles compared with their male counterparts.

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