Building the future

Robots, migrants and millenials to build much-needed British homes.

According to a new report, the housebuilding industry needs to recruit one million more construction workers in the next five years if Britain is to stand a chance of tackling the housing crisis. Some 700,000 new workers are needed by 2020 just to replace the large number of those retiring at a time when the UK is facing a chronic shortage of homes for its burgeoning population and industrialised, hi-tech, automated systems were now needed to help build homes.

In order to deliver the 250,000 homes required – about 100,000 more than the current annual build rate – even if all the trained bricklayers across the UK joined the effort, there still wouldn’t be enough to meet targets.  The upshot of the above is that it looks virtually impossible to generate a traditional workforce of sufficient size to be able to double its output and address the country’s housing needs. There needs to be focused effort on engaging with the millenial generation to make housebuilding appealing but also build more in factories using more automation to improve efficiency and reduce the number of people needed to build one house.

As the construction industry struggles to respond to the synchronised recovery, migrant labour is “likely to be one of the best options for extra manpower” the report found.

Census data from 2001 to 2011 suggests a rise in the proportion of construction workers born outside the UK of 5pc to 106pc. This means approximately 220,000 non-UK born migrants were employed in construction in England and Wales in 2011.

Inward migration may be the only practical way to get Britain building in the short-term – even though it takes away the immediate pressure to put in place long-term training and skills development programmes.

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