Skill shortage may hurt £15bn N East construction

Newcastle science park

At least £15 billion worth of construction projects will get under way in the North East of England over the next five years — but skill shortages could hold back progress, according to a new study by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

The research, carried out in conjunction with North East Local Enterprise Partnership, shows that the greatest activity will be in infrastructure and new housing with construction spends of £709 million and £574 million, respectively.

Alongside major works such as the Science Park in Newcastle and the International Advanced Manufacturing Park in Sunderland, more than 184 new housing projects are scheduled throughout the area up to 2021.

One housing development will see the creation of 1,000 new homes at the new Vaux Village on the old brewery site in Sunderland.

The report is based on a detailed analysis of existing planning applications but anticipates that the total volume of work will substantially increase as more applications are submitted over the five-year period.

However, the research identifies current and future skills gaps in the region and examines the scope of construction training on offer in the North East LEP area.

The report said several occupations are at risk of a shortfall of workers — including carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and painters and decorators.

Jeremy Wright, Partnerships Manager for the North East at CITB, said: “This research clearly shows there’s a great deal of important construction work planned for the area over the next few years.

“While overall output in the North East is expected to decline, the volume of activity is still impressive but that presents challenges when it comes to getting the right skills in place.

“This research will be useful for the industry, training providers and local government to work together on a series of interventions to help narrow current and anticipated skills gaps.

“We want to avoid a situation whereby skills shortages are causing delays to any of these exciting projects.”

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Director for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Construction is a hugely important industry for the North East.

“There are over 70,000 construction employees in our area alone, many of whom work for small businesses that contribute enormously to the local economy.

“CITB’s research gives us a good overview of activity for the next few years which will help give confidence to the market.

“The North East LEP and the region as a whole is doing a lot of work to address skills shortages and ensure our workforce, both young and old, are equipped with the skills employers need.

“We’re improving careers advice and guidance for school children across the region as part of North East Ambition and we’re ensuring our older workforce have the opportunity to learn new skills to adapt to the labour market.

“By working in partnership with the business community we’re able to support schools, universities and other education providers to match the needs of industry and deliver a skilled workforce.”