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CITB highlights recruitment challenges to 2028

by Mark Cantrell
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New figures from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) have highlighted the sector’s chronic recruitment problems, forecasting that over 250,000 extra construction workers are needed by 2028 to meet demand.

The organisation’s annual industry Construction Skills Network (CSN) 2024-28 report reveals that the the UK industry’s output rose by 2% in 2023 – the third consecutive year of growth – and is forecast to grow by an average of 2.4% a year up to 2028.

However, to meet this growth an equivalent of more than 251,500 extra construction workers are needed over the next five years, with construction employment rising to 2.75m by 2028. The major opportunities are in private housing, infrastructure, and repairs and maintenance.

Despite the industry managing to recruit around 200,000 people every year, in 2023, an average of 38,000 vacancies were advertised per month. For almost a third (31%) of construction employers, finding suitably skilled staff remains their key challenge, particularly with more older workers retiring and not being replaced.

Although the construction industry welcomed 200,000 new workers, it saw the loss of more – 210,000 workers.

With the ongoing difference between the predicted need for construction work and the available workforce, CITB says its forecast shows how important it is for the industry to tackle the issues with effective recruitment and training to replace those leaving, and better prepare for the future, as well as to take advantage of key opportunities such as productivity improvements and meeting net zero retrofit targets.

Tim Balcon, CITB’s chief executive, said: “The UK construction industry will continue to grow, but needs more people in the workforce with the right skills. There has always been a demand for workers, and CITB’s CSN report drives home how many are leaving the sector compared to those joining, and the opportunities for employers to address this challenge by recruiting and developing a skilled, competent, and diverse workforce that is able to meet current and future needs.

“The ‘people pipeline’ is critical to sector growth, but other improvements are also important, including productivity and technological innovation. This is why our commitment to investing over £267m to ensure the skills system is fit for purpose – now and in the future – is so significant.

“The past few years have posed many challenges for the industry and as a sector we have shown significant resilience.”

In response to the challenges, CITB says it has invested £267m to help the industry improve diversity, quality and productivity as well as making construction a more attractive career choice for future generations.

Among the areas this investment will directly support are three expanded initiatives to help employers meet demand head on:

  • New Entrant Support Team (NEST): Helping employers to better navigate the recruitment process, access grants and suitable training, when and where needed
  • Industry Impact Fund: Making direct funding available for employers to design and test new solutions for talent recruitment and retention challenges
  • Employer Network: Rolling this out across Great Britain, to enable local employers to set their own funding priorities and meet area-specific skills needs

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