UK faces ‘brutal’ construction skills shortage

The UK faces a ‘brutal’ construction skills shortage as a series of megaprojects already underway plus several more set to begin soon compete for scarce labour resources.

The world's biggest land-based crane, Big Carl, lifted the 245-tonne domed roof onto the first reactor building at Hinkley Point C. Megaprojects like Hinkley Point C nuclear plant are already stretching the workforce, according to Randstad UK (Image: EDF)

That’s according to the managing director of construction and engineering recruitment company Randstad UK, Simon Harris, who suggested the industry will need to hire as many as half a million additional people over the coming years.

The construction labour force has shrunk from 2.6 million people in 2008 to 2.1 million in 2023, according to Randstad UK and will need many more recruits as demand ramps up, Harris said.

He warned that existing projects like the HS2 high-speed rail project and Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant were already stretching the workforce, even before others like the £9 billion Lower Thames Crossing, and the £1.7 billion Stonehenge Tunnel commence.

The construction of the Sizewell C nuclear plant could also start as early as this year, with pre-construction works already underway.

Randstad also pointed to a recovery in the UK’s construction sector after the general election expected later this year. Meanwhile, the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) set out plans for a £58 billion expansion of the UK’s high-voltage transmission network in March, and the water sector is set to put a heavier emphasis on investment that is also likely to mean more construction work.

Harris said, “At the moment, it’s hard, but not impossible, to recruit. But the combination of mega construction projects already underway and projects that are yet to begin will intensify the current talent shortage and lead to a brutal labour shortage.

“Soon interest rates will dip and housebuilders will put their foot on the gas. The perfect storm will hit in 2026, when the Lower Thames Crossing finally kicks off. Construction employers without a bullet-proof long-term workforce plan will find the going very hard indeed.”


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Andy Brown Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786224 E-mail: [email protected]
Neil Gerrard Senior Editor, Editorial, UK - Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 7355 092 771 E-mail: [email protected]
Catrin Jones Deputy Editor, Editorial, UK – Wadhurst Tel: +44 (0) 791 2298 133 E-mail: [email protected]
Eleanor Shefford Brand Manager Tel: +44 (0) 1892 786 236 E-mail: [email protected]