Can the construction industry dig itself out of the skills hole?

In response to a growing lack of skills within the building industry, one company has taken proactive action.

“The largest building projects all begin with something very simple – digging a hole.” So says Natta Building managing director John Whelan. But the larger the project, the more complex the problems can be, with care, retail, residential and educational projects requiring extensive car parks, basements, services, drainage and roads to be included in the construction.

“Construction itself is suffering from a skills shortage, with two thirds of members surveyed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in 2017 saying a lack of skilled workers is a key factor limiting building activity.”

Natta is solving their problem by adopting the same approach to education as they do with a construction project: laying the groundwork is essential to the end result. The company has set up a civil engineering trainee programme with Guildford College of Technology to encourage new entrants to the construction industry. The course is aimed at applicants who could otherwise drift into unskilled labour.

“Construction is a very human business, and we have seen many people transform their lives through the training we have provided,” says Mr Whelan. “Thanks to the right people in the right place, we have been able to transform what we do as a business: we are offering highly technical skills, building projects such as garden centres and nursing homes. Building the expertise of our people means that we have transformed our business to become a turnkey solution for our clients.”

“The growth in our business offer has been profound and it wouldn’t have been possible without the right people. To those who ask whether they can afford to invest in their people, I’d respond: how can you afford not to?”