Over 250,000 extra construction workers required by 2028 to meet demand

The annual industry forecast from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) highlights the continuing persistent gap between what the UK needs to keep up with demand and the workforce available to meet the challenge.

CITB’s Construction Skills Network (CSN) 2024-28 report reveals that:

The UK’s construction output:

Rose by 2% in 2023, the third consecutive year of growth

Will grow by an average of 2.4% a year between now and 2028

To meet this growth, an equivalent of more than 251,500 extra construction workers are needed over the next five years, with construction employment rising to 2.75m by 2028
The significant opportunities are in:

Private housing

Infrastructure

Repair and maintenance

Despite the industry recruiting around 200,000 people every year, in 2023, an average of 38,000 vacancies were advertised monthly. For almost a third (31%) of construction employers, finding suitably skilled staff remains their key challenge, particularly with more older workers retiring and not being replaced.

Although the construction industry welcomed 200,000 new workers, it lost more (210,000). With the ongoing difference between the predicted need for construction work and the available workforce, CITB’s forecast shows how important it is for the industry to tackle the issues with effective recruitment and training to replace those leaving and better prepare for the future. The industry must also take advantage of critical opportunities such as productivity improvements and meeting net zero retrofit targets.

The CITB has said that the construction industry needs an extra 250,000 workers over the next five years to keep up with demand.

In its latest annual update, the training body said predicted output levels between now and 2028 meant 251,500 workers, the equivalent of an additional 50,000 a year, were needed to cope with hotspots such as private housing, infrastructure and repair and maintenance.

In response to the challenges, CITB has invested £267m to help the industry improve diversity, quality and productivity and make construction a more attractive career choice for future generations. Among the areas this investment will directly support are three expanded initiatives to help employers meet demand head-on:

New Entrant Support Team (NEST) – assisting the employers to navigate the recruitment process better, access grants and suitable training when and where needed Industry Impact Fund – making direct funding available for employers to design and test new solutions for talent recruitment and retention challenges Employer Network—This will be rolled out across Great Britain to enable local employers to set their own funding priorities and meet area-specific skills needs.

Tim Balcon, CITB Chief Executive, said: “The UK construction industry will continue to grow, but needs more people in the workforce with the right skills. There has always been a demand for workers, and CITB’s CSN report drives home how many are leaving the sector compared to those joining, and the opportunities for employers to address this challenge by recruiting and developing a skilled, competent, and diverse workforce that can meet current and future needs.

“The ‘people pipeline’ is critical to sector growth, but other improvements are also important, including productivity and technological innovation. This is why our commitment to investing over £267m to ensure the skills system is fit for purpose – now and in the future – is so significant.

“The past few years have posed many challenges for the industry, and as a sector, we have shown significant resilience. 2024 and beyond host a more positive outlook, and through a joined-up approach to recruiting, training, developing, and upskilling talent, CITB will continue to play a crucial role in supporting an industry that is a key driver of the UK economy.”

The West Midlands will also need more than 35,000 workers by 2028, with work on the HS2 stations at Curzon Street and Interchange cited as factors and Lendlease’s Smithfield regeneration project in Birmingham.

Other areas with high demand include Yorkshire and Humber, which requires 26,600 workers; Greater London, which needs 26,250 more workers; and Scotland, which requires an extra 26,100 workers.

The CITB said an average of 38,000 vacancies were advertised every month last year, and the 200,000 new hires still are not enough to plug the shortfall.