Is a lack of skilled workers holding back the UK housebuilding sector?

The UK government has promised additional funding, housebuilders have promised to ramp up their new build numbers but there is still one fly in the ointment. Over the last few years housebuilders have been crying out for more skilled workers so that they can grow their operations and build more houses. Despite the fact that the UK is literally tens if not hundreds of thousands behind the required new build curve, there has been a significant lack of investment in training courses. To put it bluntly, there are not enough skilled workers in the UK to fulfil the aspirations of housebuilding companies.

This has been ongoing for years

Many of the U.K.’s largest housebuilding companies are quoted on the stock market which brings greater exposure but also great pressure. The main pressure is to maximise short-term profits in the hope that the medium to long term situation will build on the momentum. In many ways this has led to a reduced investment in areas such as training and when you consider the lack of skilled workers in the UK, in terms of housebuilding, the situation just gets worse and worse.

There is also some concern that housebuilders in the UK would rather keep new build numbers rock bottom so there is more demand for second-hand property sales. In turn this will also support the UK property market and maintain the long-term growth trend in UK property prices.

Leaving the EU

As we all know, the UK is on the verge of leaving the European Union although talks about an agreement could last many years. Initially there were major concerns that leaving the EU and ending the practice of free movement within Europe would cost the UK housebuilding sector dear. The thinking was that cutting back on EU workers will reduce the number of skilled workers required for the UK housebuilding sector. However, this is not necessarily the whole picture.

Despite the fact that opposition political parties would have you believe that European immigration would literally fall to zero the day after an agreement is reached on Brexit, this is not the case. The UK authorities allow thousands of non-EU people entry to the country each year, many of whom have specific skills which are in short supply in the domestic market. While free movement will obviously disappear, the idea of obtaining entry to the UK because you have specific skills which are in short supply will remain the same.

There has been talk of modelling the UK immigration system on Australia which has a central list of industries which have specific skills shortages. These are then matched against those looking to move to Australia and confirmed when employment opportunities arise. So, the UK would be no different, it would welcome those who could support themselves as well as those with specific skills which are in short supply.

This will not happen overnight

The idea of pressing a button, investing money and solving the skills shortage in the UK housebuilding sector overnight is a fool’s paradise. This will take many years to resolve and the fact that the UK is already tens if not hundreds of thousands of newbuilds behind the curve does not help the situation. It will take time it will take further investment but with pressure from voters surely the next UK government will do something about this crisis?

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