27,000 building projects will be at risk by 2019 due to a lack of skilled surveyors according to a recent report by RICS.  Similar skills shortages have been reported by other sectors of the industry. In an attempt to alleviate the problem the government has recently announced a new initiative to encourage more construction training and apprenticeships.

The idea is to incentivise the private sector supply chain to invest more in training by making it a requirement of eligibility for government contracts.  The initial scheme, which came in on 1 April 2015, will be limited to contracts over £50 million.  The obligation to provide training will be made a contract term, adherence to which will be monitored during the project.  Compliance may also be used to decide whether to award future government work.

Details of what training will be required is currently limited. The government has asked the Construction Leadership Council to decide what a company’s “good skills performance” actually looks like.

According to a government spokesman “This new approach to procurement will generate real and lasting change in the sector’s investment in people, helping to avoid skills shortages.”  Some may well counter that another way of avoiding skills shortages is to invest in a pipeline of government projects to keep the industry active during recessions so that skilled workers do not leave in the first place.

The new proposal may also struggle due to a perception in parts of the industry that public sector clients are  often the most difficult to work for.  Now that many in the supply chain can pick and choose their projects, will they simply avoid public sector projects (and therefore the new training initiative) by choosing to work for better payers in the private sector instead?