The growing skills crisis in the building industry threatens the Prime Minister’s ambition to increase home ownership and will undermine wider economic growth.

Responding to the findings of the FMB’s State of Trade Survey for Q3 2015, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The Prime Minister stated last week that he wants his legacy to be defined by increasing home ownership, but this won’t be possible without an ample supply of skilled construction workers. Our latest research shows that a skills time bomb is in danger of exploding with a staggering 60% of small construction firms struggling to hire bricklayers. This has leapt up from 49% just three months ago. Looking at other vital trades, 54% of firms are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners, up from 47% in the previous quarter. If the skilled labour isn’t available, the Government’s ambitions for home ownership won’t be realised.”

Berry continued: “It’s not just house building and home ownership that are being hampered by the skills shortage. The future economic growth of our country relies on major infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and Hinkley Point, being built. We urgently need to boost our workforce by convincing people – in their thousands – to return to our industry or join us for the first time. Key to this is the need to address the severe shortfall in apprenticeships. The number of construction apprenticeships is insufficient and the on-going uncertainty surrounding the proposed Apprenticeship Levy is exacerbating the problem. What is very concerning is the fear that the proposed Apprenticeship Levy could deter employers from taking on apprentices at a time when we need them most.”

Berry concluded: “If we are to solve the skills crisis we need to raise the status of vocational training in this country and to promote the value of learning a skilled trade as a rewarding career. For too long the emphasis has been too focused on going to university and unfortunately we are now seeing the result – too few skilled people to deliver the many building jobs that need to be done.”