New housing and future construction skills: report

Independent Short Life Working Group report considering new and future housing construction skills and adapting and modernising for growth.

Chapter 2: Tracking Future Needs and Skills Supply

In 2014 an analysis of various growth forecasts and new homes delivery (post-recession period to 2022) was developed by Homes for Scotland [18]. The current net supply of new housing completions in Scotland is following an annual average 5% growth trajectory from 2014 levels. Whilst Scotland’s population is increasing to 2041 by 5% the household demand is increasing by 13% [4]. This 8% difference is due to a number of reasons including people living longer, delaying release of housing back onto the market, and need for more single and two person occupancy homes.

During the course of this parliament Scottish government is investing £3 billion to support 50,000 affordable new homes by 2021 [5]. To meet both current demand on new housing and future demand Scotland requires to build at least 28,000 new homes per annum for the next 10 years [6]. Figure 2 shows the number of average annual new homes completions (2003-08) versus 2017/18 supply and future required annual supply. This illustrates the step change from current levels that will be required and there are already existing pressures of skills demand and is likely to increase in future.

Figure 2: Comparing previous new homes supply prior to recession, recent and future requirements

Figure 2: Comparing previous new homes supply prior to recession, recent and future requirements

Skills planning to meet forecasted demand can guide skills investment and help the sector prepare. Such forecasts are not straight forward given the range of external factors, time periods involved, economic and regional variations, mobility of workforce within construction subsectors and diverse investment sources for housing. Some of the formats for skill needs and job forecasts for the construction sector in Scotland have previously been based on a macro level analysis involving data from larger companies and pipeline activity often aligned to infrastructure projects. Whilst housing activity forecasts have also been included the regional variations for new housing plans, skills and jobs demand have not been commonly developed in detail.

The house building sector is reliant on medium, small and micro companies through sub-contracting. If many of these companies are not part of the macro skills forecast analysis for the construction sector, and regional variations in new build housing forecasts are not within future demand analysis, it is likely that gaps or variations between what is required in future skills supply may occur. The current shortages and demands on skills suggest that one of the contributing factors may have been gaps or errors in previous skills demand forecasts. Given the lead in time to skill-up to appropriate qualifications occurs over several years, and if data analysis used may have an error factor, this may lead to be a compounding factor.

There are some excellent databases which illustrate the current enrolments of activity in training and employment. Current separate statistics and datasets include, FE college skills training, university degree enrolments, industry trade and profession organisations, private training providers and public sector workforce related to the sector. However, there is currently no annual collective “snapshot” dataset which covers the entire sector of construction for all trades, professions and public sector workforce. Having such a macro overview annually of numbers enrolled in training and employed across all sectors would assist both the whole industry and government with future planning and identifying key areas or gaps for investment and growth.

Given the shortages in key skills supply both for professional and craft skills the SLWG discussed what data sets and information are available to better plan ahead. Given the ability for the workforce to operate in areas which are also non-housebuilding it would be useful for the construction sector as a whole to have annual data.

During the SLWG meetings the CITB presented data skills supply for regions across Scotland [15]. This received very positive feedback from the SLWG and helped identify specific aspects to different regions in Scotland for skills supply aligned to housebuilding. Given the differences in urban and rural areas of Scotland and the geographic spread, such regional variations and needs data could be very useful to assist with future skills planning, local delivery and support an inclusive approach for the regions and local authority areas. Mobility of subcontractors does provide adjacent regional sector flexibility. However, excessive mobility and travel by subcontractors across Scotland to travel to sites may temporarily fill regional skills gaps but can impact on the sector’s productivity, diverts local skills supply, impacts on work-life balance and increases transport emissions and cost. The highest emissions in Scotland stem from the transport sector. Reducing excessive fossil-fuelled vehicle mileage and better utilisation of local workforces, through sufficient skills supply, would be a positive factor for the sector.

Whilst there are many different industry trade bodies, industry organisations, skills groups and professions institutes there is not currently a singular collective skills and professions body or organisation which brings all pan-Scotland groups together. There is transferability of some skills between housing, infrastructure, non-housing, retrofit and other subsectors. Future demands on skills will increase and new types of skills and technologies will also enter the market. The opportunity to have a collective overview of the common areas of skills, supply and upskilling opportunities may assist the entire construction sector.

A movement towards better forecasting, involving new house building by region, more in-depth involvement with SMEs to feed into forecast projections and a national overview of all skills and professions in the construction sector would help towards better skills planning.


R.2.1 Establishment of national annual ‘touchpoint’ dataset of the number of apprentices, skilled workforce, professions and construction related public sector workforce in Scotland to track sector supply, identify future gaps and provide proactive engagement for sector in working with government to better plan for the future. Note: To confirm this is not to establish a national database of individuals but to track levels of skills and workforce supply activity by requesting existing professions, skills bodies and providers to feed in macro ‘state of the sector skills and professions supply’ annually.

R.2.2 To develop annual regional skills analysis for those in training, identify key skills gaps to assist regional variations for industry training and future supply needs.

R.2.3 Establishment of a construction skills and professions council for Scotland bringing all industry trade bodies and professional organisations together. Note: During the course of the SLWG meetings the Construction Scotland industry leadership group established a new skills group structure. This is welcomed. It is recommended that the skills group should either be enlarged to include all industry trades, industry organisations, skills and professional bodies, or to have a bi-annual event which brings all such groups together. This would support a collaborative approach across the sector and for all levels.



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