Devon construction labour demand peaks April 2016

Graph showing Devon construction labour demand
Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership Labour & Skills Study January 2015 – Figure 3.6.1. Showing Labour Demand in Devon 2015-2019

Labour demand for construction workers in Devon is expected to increase from now until 2019, peaking at 17,000 workers in April 2016. At the moment there is a mismatch between labour supply and demand. So the challenge is to get the people with the right skills and knowledge in place to meet the workload. The dynamic is further complicated by planned re-development work in Plymouth and the construction of Hinkley Point C, the largest construction project in Europe.

Construction labour demand in the South West is expected to be 22,000 higher in 2019 than in 2014 representing an annual increase of 1.9%, higher than the UK average of 1.4%. Labour demand isn’t all about brick laying, it includes a huge spectrum of occupations:

Number of workers employed in a small sample of the 28 broad construction occupation groups (2014) for Heart of the South West (HoSW) (Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay)
Architects 830
Building envelope specialists 3,350
Electrical trades and installation 4,130
Non-construction professional, technical, IT, and other office-based staff. 9,500
Plumbing and HVAC Trades 6,200
Senior, executive, and business process managers 3,870
Wood trades and interior fit-out 9,140

The Exeter & Heart of Devon Employment and Skills Board (EHOD ESB) have been working with local councils and the Growth Point team to maximise the potential for recruitment of local skills development and labour. Council leaders from East Devon District Council, Exeter City Council and Teignbridge District Council have now signed a concordat to align their approach to construction skills development and employment opportunities. This will set the expectation that construction companies and their sub contractors, whether new build or for maintenance, will invest in local skills development in the same way across all three council areas.

Over the coming months we will be:

  • Supporting the newly formed South West Shared Apprenticeships, an organisation set-up to employ apprentices who are then allocated jobs within a number of construction companies and contractors. Over a number of projects and over a two-year period apprentices will accumulate enough experience to complete Level 1 and 2 NVQs. Thus, removing the barrier for some building companies, who do not have sufficient work to employ an apprentice full-time.
  • Working towards the implementation of the Construction Industry Training Board’s ‘Client Based Approach’ which has clearly defined requirements in support of the development of a local skilled workforce through key performance indicators (KPI) for skills development and employment, commensurate with project type and scale.
  • Considering the benefits of a two stage procurement process through the Construction Framework South West for greater collaboration and localism.
  • Working with the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership and the Construction Industry Training Board to develop their construction employment and skills strategy.

The EHOD ESB has set out it’s mantra of ” Improving peoples’ lives through Employment and Skills whilst consciously reflecting that we are doing the right thing”. The size of the opportunity within the construction sector is significant. The proactive approach in tackling difficult challenges in an open forward-thinking collaborative approach, has begun to bear fruit, and it is vital that the momentum continues in order that the potential is realised.

Mark Shepherd, Chair of EHOD ESB said: “The success of this initiative so far, is a real credit to all those from Local Government, Employers, Funders and Facilitators whom without their contributions this would not have been achieved. For all partners this is a fantastic example of what proactive collaboration can achieve!”

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