The 2017 budget: Laying the foundations for the industrial strategy

In his first budget speech, the chancellor of the Exchequer set out the Government’s plan to “tackle the UK’s productivity challenge”.

Although the speech itself contained little or no reference to house building or planning, the chancellor set out plans to tackle the shortage of skilled workers affecting sectors of the UK industry such as construction.

Philip Hammond announced the introduction of T-Level qualifications to rival the traditional academic system and further enhance technical education. In addition, the chancellor pledged a 50 per cent increase in the number of programme hours for 16-19 year olds by 2019/20 and announced £40 million of funding for the Lifelong Learning pilots to retrain existing workers.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) believes that introducing T-Levels and funds for developing existing workers are positive steps addressing the challenge posed by the construction skills crisis.

Small and medium-sized (SME) businesses employ 60 per cent of the private sector and it is estimated that 20% of all SMEs operate in the construction industry. However, SME house builders currently build just 12 per cent of the market. This is very damaging for skilled workers pursuing a career in construction.

Rico Wojtulewicz, policy advisor for the House Builders Association (HBA), said:

“It is imperative that we deliver high-quality training, but not if employment opportunities are for a transient workforce or one that is concentrated mostly in large cities.”

Paul Bogle, head of policy and research at the NFB, said:

“SMEs are already capable of providing the career opportunities that construction needs. The industrial strategy and local policies must properly reflect the role of SMEs in training local apprentices, recruiting local workers and developing local economies.”