UK Post COVID-19 Construction Industry Recovery
The UK construction industry is one of the leading drivers of the British economy – generating more than £90bn annually (6.7% of GDP), responsible for employing over 2.93m professionals, and contributing considerably to the UK’s total economic output.
It is anticipated that during 2021 the UK construction industry will largely recover from its CODID-19 induced output drop of circa 20%, there are still many uncertainties to overcome, including:
- The end of the UK Government furlough scheme and potential unemployment arising from this.
- Low productivity due to the current social distancing requirements.
- The potential for a second wave of COVID-19 infection.
- The level and effectiveness of homeworking required in the future.
- The impact of Brexit in terms of deal/no deal, tariffs and market access.
The UK Government has delivered an unprecedented amount of support to the UK Economy and is attempting to bolster the construction industry by pressing ahead with new projects and relaxing planning regulations. Although it is clear that the UK construction industry still faces significant challenges and is likely to permanently change in many ways.
UK Construction Skills Gap
Unfortunately, the UK’s construction skills gap isn’t a new problem. The financial crisis of 2008 resulted in a reluctance of banks to grant loans for construction projects. This resulted in many skilled tradespeople and construction professionals leaving the industry, graduate and apprenticeship programmes being cut, and very little hiring during the crisis. As a result, the market experienced a shortage of ‘young talent’ in the ensuing years. This situation is set to worsen in the near future, as a large proportion of our current qualified professionals and tradespeople approach retirement age and Brexit makes the employment of foreign labour uncertain.
In addition to this, and in an attempt to offset the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK Government is attempting to stimulate the construction industry by pushing ahead with infrastructure projects and large scale housebuilding schemes.
However, as recovery progresses and the construction industry takes on a new form, it is still anticipated that there will be a longer term resource shortfall of several hundred thousand people over the next 5 years.
Currently, Employers are trying to plan ahead in a very uncertain and changing situation. They are attempting to predict forward resource requirements in a changing market where projects are reopening at different times, at different rates of productivity and may still be impacted by the pandemic infection, material supplies, funding and the impact of Brexit. This means that under-utilised resources and proportionally high overhead costs cannot be carried for long periods of time.
As a result of this complex situation, the construction employment market is very uncertain. Construction Employers now are searching for ways to recover and continue to grow, whilst also financially de-risking their operations and trying to do more work with fewer employees.
Due to these recent job stability concerns, many Employees are now considering how they can take control of their own destiny and perhaps earn a living from diverse income streams – rather than a single employer.
New Ways of Working
Recent advances in IT infrastructure, fibre optic internet connections and work productivity IT tools are changing the way the construction industry operates. There is no longer the need to lease large, expensive offices as more and more people embrace the remote / home working concept.
A large proportion of construction work is actually desk based including design, engineering, site paperwork, planning, estimating and technical documentation to name but a few. These tasks can be delivered remotely from offices and even by home based staff including freelancers.
Up until now, it has been difficult for construction clients to find and engage with freelancers and similarly difficult for freelancers to regularly find clients to maintain their income.
However, with new dedicated construction freelancer platforms such as Shareplant Freelance (https://freelance.shareplant.com), the potential for the construction freelance industry is now huge.
These platforms allow clients to post scoped tasks of any type and size and for freelancers to find and bid for them. Winning freelancers then deliver the work in private virtual workspaces and get securely paid when the work is complete. Also, freelancers can advertise specific services to clients on these platforms.
Make Use of Our Existing Skills
Whilst it is certain that more apprenticeships, training and graduate schemes will help to alleviate the projected skills shortage, there is also a significant opportunity to utilise the existing UK’s construction skills more efficiently.
Many of our skilled construction resources have the potential to deliver work on a freelance basis. This could be either as their main source of income or as a top up income stream in addition to a full time job.
This provides a win-win for everyone! Clients can get specialist work done at lower cost without the financial risk of employing full time staff and freelancers can find regular work from a diverse range of clients and earn as much income as they like.
This way of working won’t be for everyone, but for those people who are willing to embrace new technology and think laterally, the potential rewards could be huge!
For more information on the Shareplant Freelance platform please visit https://freelance.shareplant.com