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LGA warns over building skills shortage

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Control over skills policy and funds must be devolved to local level to combat an acute shortage of trainee construction workers, the Local Government Association has said.

It warned that shortages of skilled tradespeople threatened to make it impossible for the government to deliver on its plan to build 275,000 affordable homes by 2020.

Analysis in the LGA’s Skills to Build report found the industry’s forecast annual recruitment need was up 54% from 2013. In the same year the number of construction qualifications awarded fell by 8,000 on the previous year and was down about 25,000 since 2008-09.

According to the research, the industry rated 56% of its vacancies as ‘hard to fill’, up from 46% in 2011, and almost triple the proportion of ‘hard to fill’ vacancies across the whole economy.

The LGA said careers advice, post-16 and adult skills budgets and powers should be devolved to local areas – a plea common to almost all devolution bids so far made.

Housing board chair Peter Box (Lab) said: “Industry is clear that skills gaps are one of their greatest barriers to building. If we are to see the homes desperately needed across the country built and jobs and apprenticeships created, councils must be given a leading role.”

Skill requirements differed across the country, for example with bricklayers in greatest demand in the north-west and carpenters and interior fitters in the West Midlands.

“Councils are best-placed to understand the needs of their residents and local economies but have no influence over skills training and employment support in their area,” Cllr Box said.

“In return for increased funding and powers, councils, schools, colleges and employers could work together to reduce unemployment, close this widening construction skills gap and ramp up housebuilding.”

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