Esh Border Construction moves to address industry skills gap at grass roots level

Darush Dodds
Darush Dodds

Esh Border Construction is working closely with young Scots in a bid to inspire them to get into the industry and offset the worst skills crisis in a generation.

The construction sector accounts for nearly seven per cent of UK GDP and generates almost £90 billion annually. However, an industry that employs over 2.9 million people is now suffering a major skills crisis.

Around 140,000 sector jobs were lost in the 2008 recession and many construction workers are retiring with 22% of the workforce over 50, and 15% in their 60s.

This ageing workforce is not being replaced by an adequate pipeline of young people, a situation that is expected to create major issues for the industry across the next decade.

Furthermore, a recent survey from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has indicated the construction skills shortage is making it difficult for the construction sector to grow.

Livingston-based Esh Border Construction, part of Esh Group, is aiming to tackle the problem at grass roots level by working with young people and giving them a taste of what the industry can offer.

In primary schools, the company’s Get Into STEM initiative provides primary school teachers with learning kits that help introduce children to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) themes through the lens of construction.

In secondary schools, the Building My Skills scheme sees business guests from different sector backgrounds deliver insight sessions to schoolchildren who also complete an employability portfolio.

Darush Dodds, head of corporate responsibility and added value at Esh Group, said: “Building My Skills is about opening the doors to the workplace for young people, raising their aspirations and making sure they have the right approach to secure that all-important first job.

“Get Into STEM is just one of Esh Group’s responses to a skills shortage across the engineering and construction sectors, and aims to shape career aspirations positively.”

According to RICS, the skills shortage remains a critical issue in the industry, with some 53 per cent warning a lack of labour would be a key impediment to development and growth. This figure is a slight increase from the 50 per cent seen in the previous quarter.

Dodds said: “Shortages of skilled workers remain an ever-present barrier to growth. Esh has taken steps to address the issue with an apprentice programme and a new academy and schools programme to educate the next generation of talent about the career opportunities in our sector.”

Esh Group has recruited over 100 apprentices in two years as part of its commitment to employ 150 by 2017.

The company also made a £3.6m investment in new academic facilities to ensure it has the platform to train its future talent.

John Davies, managing director at Esh Group, said: “Our business is built on great people and as it expands and develops we believe that a great apprenticeship programme is essential to supporting our growth. Esh Academy is about us taking responsibility for making sure we’ve got those great people coming through.”

The apprenticeships available at Esh Group cover a wide range of roles including plumbing, business administration, painting and decorating, electrical, quantity surveying, construction engineering, landscaping, carpentry and joinery, bricklaying, groundworks and drainage, vehicle maintenance and IT.

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