Expert group makes recommendations to develop construction workforce to meet future housing demand



An independent group commissioned by the Scottish Government to examine industry skills has made 40 recommendations to address gaps in housing construction expertise.

Investment in apprenticeships, upskilling workers and attracting more people into the industry are among the themes in the New Housing and Future Construction Skills Report.

Although the industry faces a number of challenges and skills shortages, advancements in technology and new apprenticeship programmes present opportunities for new skill sets, career paths and workforce diversity.

Recommendations include investing in colleges to upgrade training facilities to deal with new technologies, setting up graduate apprenticeships to increase the number of local authority building and planning officers, and establishing a skills and professions council.

Creating a construction minister for the sector was also recommended.

The Scottish Government set up the Housing and Construction Skills Short-Life Working Group (SLWG), chaired by Professor Sean Smith from Napier University, in 2018. This independent group was established to assess and provide recommendations for future new housing and construction skills, with secretariat support from the Scottish Government. 

Members included house builders, industry organisations, college, university, public sector, training and skills organisations.

The group have split their recommendations into action for the short-term (three years), medium-term (four to nine years) and long-term (ten years). 

The group has considered the role of new technologies and construction methods and other factors which might affect the supply of skilled labour.

The Scottish Government has also published a report outlining stakeholder views on the wider challenges for housing to 2040. Issues raised included the need for improvements to existing housing stock, a recognition of the distinct needs of Scotland’s rural communities, and the putting of people and communities at the heart of planning.

Speaking at the Homes for Scotland Annual Conference on Friday, communities secretary Aileen Campbell said: “It is crucial that Scotland has a skilled and productive construction workforce, both now and in future. We are already working collaboratively with industry, education, skills bodies and local authorities on programmes to develop the workforce required for major housebuilding projects.

“We need a housing system that works for us all, that is dynamic enough to adapt to future challenges and is resilient in the face of them. I welcome the recommendations of the Housing and Construction Skills Short-Life Working Group in this report, and look forward to discussing these with my Cabinet and Ministerial colleagues to consider what we can do to support skills delivery now and longer term.” 

Professor Sean Smith added: “The coming decade will be one of the most innovative and transformative periods for the housebuilding sector as new technologies and approaches enter the market. For young people considering a career in engineering, construction and housebuilding there are a range of new opportunities, roles and key skills the sector will require.

“There is now a unique opportunity for school career advisors, industry and the public sector to enable the pathways into these future careers and support greater diversity and inclusion.”