How can we equip the construction industry with the skills we need for the future?

As Stephen Gray, BAM’s Head of Engineering Development steps into a new role as a Trustee on the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), he reflects on the formidable skills challenge the industry faces and asks … is better collaboration the solution?

Our sector is facing a troubling skills gap

It is widely reported that the construction industry faces a troubling skills gap. According to the CITB’s annual report, an additional 225,000 construction workers will be needed by 2027, a shortfall that threatens the sustainability of our industry.
Bridging this skills gap must consider not only the number of construction workers required but also the types of skills our industry now needs. Technology has reshaped the fabric of our industry. Advancements such as AI, robotics, and virtual reality are not just changing roles, but creating entire new ones. 

In the face of climate change, the construction sector also has a huge role to play in building a sustainable tomorrow and helping the UK to reach net zero. This has created an increasing need for a new set of green construction skills, from energy modeling to green retrofitting. 

Is better collaboration the solution?

Amidst these challenges lies an opportunity – a chance to collaborate, innovate, and lay the foundations for a stronger and more resilient industry.

My journey within the industry spans three decades, during which I have enjoyed fantastic opportunities, diverse roles, and rich experiences. My decision to join the CITB board stems from a desire to give back to an industry that has provided me with immense opportunities for growth and development.

Over the years, I’ve realised that better collaboration is not only nice to have, it is essential in addressing the industry’s skills gap and driving forward innovation. Here the CITB plays a crucial role in facilitating investment in training, bridging academia-industry divides, and fostering partnerships between government, industry, and academic institutions.  

Developing and nurturing a skilled workforce for the future

When I look back at my parents’ generation, people chose a job in the town where they’d grown up and they stayed in that job for life. Today things are different – people change jobs and careers more fluidly throughout their lives, pursuing new areas of interest, greater levels of fulfillment, and a healthy work-life balance.

If we are to retain and attract the skilled workforce that we need within our industry, we must invest in our people to create an environment where they can stay, grow, and develop.

The CITB supports contractors in providing continual learning opportunities for their people, allowing them to expand their knowledge and skills. By facilitating the investment in training and fostering collaboration between industry and academic institutions, the CITB plays a vital role in ensuring the training provision meets the demands of our rapidly changing industry.


Attracting the next generation of talent into the industry

Alongside supporting and developing the people we already have within our industry, we also need to attract new talent into construction if we are to address the skills shortage. Despite the industry’s technological advancements, outdated perceptions of careers within construction persist, undermining our ability to attract the next generation of talented innovators and problem solvers.

Young people need to see that construction is not just about building structures. It’s about making the future possible. It’s about working in teams to solve complex problems. It’s about using cutting-edge technology to create sustainable and resilient buildings. And it’s about collaborating effectively to make a tangible, positive impact on the communities around us.

The CITB supports contractors in providing hands-on learning experiences that are critical to changing perceptions of our industry. Collaboration with academic institutions - schools, colleges, and universities – is essential, to ensure not only that the skills being taught align with the needs of our industry, but also that young people are given an accurate portrayal of the wide range of careers available within construction.  

By working together, we can create a brighter future for the construction industry—one innovation thrives, and our built environment reflects the values of sustainability and inclusivity.

About the author

Stephen Gray - BAM

Stephen Gray

Head of Engineering Development

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Stephen leads engineering development at BAM. He works with engineers across BAM UK and Ireland at all levels of their careers, supporting them with training, development, and opportunities for growth.

In April 2024 Stephen was appointed as a voluntary trustee on the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

As a chartered engineer, with over 30 years’ experience in the industry, Stephen decided it was time for him to give back to the sector that has provided him with many opportunities for growth and development.