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UK construction industry facing skills 'time bomb'


CITB has issued a stark warning to the UK construction sector – that it faces a skills ‘time bomb’ if it fails to recruit new workers to replace more than 400,000 people set to retire in the next 5-10 years.

Apprenticeship at work

The labour market research, published by the Office of National Statistics, shows that across the UK:

  • 19% (equivalent to 406,000 people) of the UK construction workers aged 55+ are set to retire in the next 5-10 years;

  • 24% (equivalent to 518,000 people) of UK construction workers aged 45–54 are set to retire in the next 10-20 years;

  • 37% of the UK construction workforce is self-employed and 23% (equivalent to 182,800 people) of those are set to retire from the industry in the next 5-10 years;

  • The East Midlands and the South West will be particularly hit, with 22% of construction workers (equivalent to 31,900 people in the East Midlands and 39,500 people in the South West) set to leave the industry over the next 5-10 years;

  • Greater London, with the largest number of construction workers in the UK (318,000 people), is set to perform better than the rest of the UK in terms of the average proportion of workers leaving the sector: 12% (equivalent to 38,500 workers) over the next 5-10 years;  

  • The number of people retiring in Scotland and Wales in the next 5-10 years is set to be similar to the total number of people retiring in the North East and South West combined (approximately 56,000 people).

With many young people due to receive GCSE and A Level results this month, CITB is encouraging employers to recruit from the emerging pool of talented young people who will be considering their next steps. 

Interim Chief Executive of CITB, William Burton, said: “Almost one in five workers is set to retire from the construction industry over the next 5-10 years, so not taking action now to encourage young people to join the industry – and investing in the training to up-skill our existing workforce  –  is no longer an option.

"The construction sector is essential for local and national economic growth and to avoid the similar skills crisis that affected the industry in the early 1990’s, we urge employers to act now.” 

The data also shows that UK construction has a higher demographic age profile than other UK industries – 19% of the construction workforce are expected to retire over the next 5-10 years compared with 17% across the whole of the UK workforce.

Last year, CITB provided £78.2 million in grants to employers for training and supported over 17,000 construction apprentices.

To find out more about the careers available in construction, visit www.citb.co.uk/careers.

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