To be in construction, we must be constructive

Post-Brexit, industry must play its part in addressing the skills crisis, says Leo Quinn.

A statistic recently captured my attention: a quarter of all construction workers in London are from the EU.

Post-Brexit, this has significant implications for the construction industry, a sector which has heavily relied on EU workers to fill vacancies where we have been unable to recruit UK talent.

I welcome the Government’s efforts to address the problem: the apprenticeship levy, the commitment it has shown to investing in the skills of the next generation and its pledge to create 30,000 new apprentices across the road and rail industry by 2020.

However Government can only do so much to solve this problem. It’s business that creates jobs, requires the skills and delivers the training – and many in our industry are doing just that.

Three years ago I founded The 5% Club – an employer-led initiative – whose members aspire to having at least 5% of their employees as apprentices, sponsored students or graduate trainees. Many of the biggest names in our industry are members – demonstrating their commitment to training the workforce and sharing knowledge with the many SMEs who are members, helping smaller firms play their part in this vital task.

In my role as Chair of the Skills Stream for the Construction Leadership Council, I am working to ensure that the skills agenda forms a key role in the Government’s Industrial Strategy. This is our chance to help government create the framework that our industry need so we can solve this problem.

With nationally significant projects like HS2 and new nuclear, we need our own pipeline of people with specialist skills. Technical skills take time to develop. So we need to get started so we have the people do deliver these projects.

We must be advocates: we must do more to attract more people into the sector – and what an amazing sector to be part of. We must show that construction is an immensely fulfilling field, where you have the satisfaction of seeing your work realised and endure for many years.

Modern, efficient infrastructure is taken for granted by members of the public. The infrastructure sector must not do the same by assuming there will always be a steady supply of labour.

Addressing this skills shortage will enable us to deliver major infrastructure projects, protect the economy and enable the UK to compete on a global stage.

This is something which every company in our sector, big or small, can play their part in fixing. The smallest members of The 5% Club only have a few employees, including an apprentice. So if they can, how about you? And what better time to do something about it than during Apprenticeship Week?


Leo Quinn, Group CEO, Balfour Beatty and Founder, The 5% Club
Lead on Skills, CLC

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