“Britain must recruit one worker every 77 seconds to meet construction needs” states the headline of this recent report on the state of the industry from Arcadis. You would think therefore it’s a good time to be a construction specialist recruiter?
The truth as ever, is far more nuanced. Their piece goes on to articulate perfectly the inherent challenges in meeting this demand and overcoming the skills gap.
The skills gap and the risk it presents to the future of the industry has been a major talking point ever since I joined Contract Scotland in 2007. The recession that followed only exacerbated the problem. It is now abundantly clear that what we were warned of then is now becoming a reality.
At Contract Scotland, we have long encouraged our client base to ‘think outside the box’, to recruit on potential and give opportunities to people from different backgrounds. There is no doubt that in the long run that investment pays off. For our clients who take heed of that advice the challenge they face is how they then effectively transfer knowledge and upskill these new recruits. On major projects fighting to meet tight programmes on even tighter margins, much of this new workforce is forced to learn in the job under some of the most challenging conditions imaginable.
As the Arcadis piece states; “It is not as simple as just training more people or using robots, getting the right people in the right places to do the right jobs is massively complex.” For us as a specialist recruiter dealing with technical & professional construction disciplines, this is often the challenge presented to us by our clients. To deliver projects efficiently you need leaders with experience and knowledge that can only be acquired over a long period of time. Finding those individuals who can ‘hit the ground running’ and offer that leadership is an increasingly difficult task. To do this requires a great deal of expertise, a detailed knowledge of individual disciplines, the skills/qualifications required to perform specific roles on different types of projects and importantly, a thorough understanding of the working environment and culture we place people within. In addition to that, finding that right person requires a lot of patience and tenacity. Working closely with clients to understand their long-term strategy helps us to prepare and act more effectively. So, the earlier we are brought in to the process, the better we can respond to these challenges.
So despite the headline, recruiting in construction is no easy task. Yes, there is an opportunity but also a great deal of risk. The cost of the wrong hire can make all the difference to our clients in this market. We have been able to successfully position ourselves in the Scottish construction market over the past 27 years. We have maintained a remarkably low staff turnover which has helped us to retain a great deal of expertise which gives us an advantage. However, the challenges noted in the Arcadis report remain.
For us it’s very much about finding that balance between attracting new people in to the industry and finding more experienced staff who can offer leadership and direction in an increasingly challenging climate. Working with a good recruiter who understands this challenge and knows how and when to tailor the approach to suit different scenarios can ultimately help a business ease the burden.
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