The engineering construction industry (ECI) faces a much bigger skills gap than previously thought, according to new research by the sector’s training body.
The Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) estimated last year that around 25,000 additional workers would be needed for major projects, including those related to net zero by 2026.
This has been reaffirmed by new research, the organisation says, however it is also said to have shown that the labour demand gap will get wider, with an estimated shortfall of 40,000 workers by 2028.
The ECITB, together with Whole Life Consultants, have developed a new Labour Forecasting Tool (LFT), and it was this predictive modelling that led to the latest figures for labour shortfalls.
Occupations that are likely to be in short supply in future include mechanical and electrical engineers, scaffolders, process engineers, project managers, pipefitters, welders, and instrument and control technicians.
Andrew Hockey, the ECITB’s chief executive, said: “The Labour Forecasting Tool is a first of its kind. Using data on this scale has not been done before in the ECI, and will enable us to build a much better picture of future labour needs.
“Our Leading Industry Learning Strategy 2023-25 focuses on tackling the critical challenges and helping industry to prepare for a boom in project activity for engineering construction employers.
“Attracting new entrants is a key priority for industry and the ECITB, which is why half of the ECITB training grant budget is dedicated to new entrants.”
Hockey added: “Clearly more needs to be done to address skills shortages, and requires a truly collaborative approach with employers, governments, training providers and the ECITB all working together.
“Having this new source of evidence will better inform decision-making about what we do and how we support the industry to address these labour needs.”
The LFT is designed as a resource for exploring workforce trends in the ECI, which operates across the oil, gas, nuclear, renewables, hydrogen, and carbon capture sectors, as well as other process industries, such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food processing, water and waste treatment.
The tool was created using insights from the organisation’s 2021 Workforce Census, along with data from 1,500 active and future ECI projects.
Among its initial findings, the LFT shows there could be a 28% increase in demand for workers in the industry between 2023 and 2028, with nearly 8,000 additional workers potentially needed to meet demand in 2024 alone if planned projects go ahead on time.
The current version of the LFT contains forecast demand data by region, sector and occupational group.
The tool, for example, highlights that an extra 13,000 workers could be needed by 2028 in the nuclear sector, while 16,000 more could be needed by 2030 in the offshore wind industry, which would represent a 75% increase in demand.
Mark Riley, chair of the Client Contractor National Safety Group (CCNSG), which was part of the LFT’s technical reference group, said: “The release of this Labour Forecasting Tool by the ECITB is a significant step forward in understanding the tensions and opportunities that are affecting the engineering construction workforce.
“For the first time we can visualise this key industrial infrastructure skill base where supply and demand are spread across multiple regions and sectors.
“The LFT will provide a valuable tool to support discussions and decisions around key skills and, as the ECITB continues to work with industry to refine the underlying data and assumptions, the quality of information will only improve.”
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