Seddon warns of construction skill gap

Construction firm Seddon has warned that a lack of construction industry training and skills development poses an immediate and ongoing threat to the government’s ambitious plans to boost the availability of housing.

Although Seddon has welcomed Chancellor George Osborne’s pre-budget announcement that Government’s Help to Buy equity loan scheme will be extended to 2020, as this will help the company sell homes it builds for sale, it has also warned that a construction ‘skills gap’ could restrict the delivery of new homes nationally.

This week’s budget, and Osborne’s announcement, coincides with Christopher Seddon, Director of Seddon Services Ltd, receiving an MBE for his services to apprenticeships and the community – to be awarded on Tuesday.

Seddon is one of few large, national builders to retain a dedicated apprenticeship and training programme throughout the recent recession – and has maintained a commitment to training and developing an intake of young people for over 75 years.

In 2013 Seddon employed almost 50 full-time apprentices and regularly receives 600 applications for each year’s intake, for a variety of roles – from brick layers and joiners to office support.

Over the last ten years Seddon has employed more than 225 apprentices – with a 95% retention rate.

In December 2013 the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) announced that 42% of construction firms are struggling to recruit workers with the right skills, while a Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) survey of the same year revealed that 82% of respondents believe a skill shortage exists – a 5% increase since the last survey in 2011.

More tellingly 51% of respondents stated that their businesses were not actively recruiting apprentices, while conversely, 90% of the same people questioned believe apprentices are key in filling the skills gap.

Jonathan Seddon, Managing Director of Seddon and Christopher Seddon’s son comments:

“As a builder, Seddon is obviously pleased that the Government has extended its commitment to assisting first time buyers purchase new-build homes, which should have a positive impact on demand.

“However, we are concerned that many in the industry continue to ignore what is an obvious barrier to the supply of new homes, particularly now the country is gearing up to start building again.

“As a family owned business Seddon has been able to make a commitment to apprenticeships and training throughout the recent lean years, and although I appreciate it’s been harder for some of our investor and shareholder owned competitors to justify this expense through the tough times, we all have to pull our weight to ensure we have people with the skills to deliver what’s being promised.

“We can’t just rely on sub-contractors to fill the void.”

Jonathan continues:

“Although education and colleges have an important role to play – there’s no substitute to getting people onsite and learning the core skills to do a job properly.

“As a family and a business we’re all very proud of my father’s MBE, and his contribution and commitment to young people’s careers in this area – it’s in our DNA, and we’re a stronger business because of it. But it’s also a timely reminder to everyone in the industry that there’s a skills gap that we must all work to fill, and as a business we will continue to make our contribution whilst also lobbying our peers and Government at a national level.”