Meeting deadlines, liaising with clients and managing a successful business leaves most business owners with not enough time to keep track of national or regional economic indicators which may affect our industry and, more specifically, your business.
We cannot escape media headlines filled with news of downturns and slumps, rising and lowering interest rates, inflation and consumer confidence — all of which may have a direct impact on your existing and potential clients, your suppliers or your employees and, therefore, on the success and profitability of your business.
During periods of economic decline, whether widespread or cyclical, the construction industry is one that has, in the past, suffered, and often for a long period — boom and bust cycles in the industry are known to be around seven years in duration.
How construction businesses survive the impact of any economic downturn is not just dependent upon the financial strength of the business, but also how well they have planned for the future as regards skills.
Over the past 10 years we have been made aware of the serious skill shortages in the industry, especially when it comes to carpenters, plasterers and concrete workers. These skill shortages were a direct result of the industry taking its eye off the ball and not training sufficient numbers of apprentices.
One of the ways to alleviate skills shortages and maintain a successful business is to train employees to carry out work which will enhance the business.
During the past five years, the construction industry has been attempting to rectify the skills shortage by increasing the number of apprentices in training. Unfortunately, this positive increase still leaves us with a significant gap.
In years to come the number of skilled people available to work in the industry will be negatively impacted by the ageing workforce retiring. There will be fewer numbers of school leavers available to enter the industry and, in addition to that, the sector is competing in a global market with other countries with similar shortages.
While on the surface some people may suggest that immigration is a solution, we will not be able to rely on immigration policies to assist in filling the gaps.
The benefits of workplace training for employees are well documented. Training enables staff to gain formal recognition of their skills with a qualification that is designed to meet industry needs. This ensures the skills learnt are those that are relevant and beneficial to the workplace.
Training an apprentice takes time and commitment, but it can also bring rewards and benefits to the business, including getting the right mix of skills, improving staff retention, and an increase in productivity and improvement in the financial outcomes of the business.
Training (specifically workplace training) during the harder times can also assist in ensuring the security and growth of your business.
The construction industry embraces new technology readily. Builders ensure they are familiar with new legislation and are becoming more educated and knowledgeable about sustainable building — all positive actions.
But to ensure the long-term viability and success of the construction sectors, business owners also need to commit to future-proofing the skills of the industry, and that is going to require the continued training of apprentices.
If you would like to know more about employing apprentices and workplace training, call the BCITO on 0800 422 486.