Travis Perkins CEO highlights effect of skills shortages on construction sector

The CEO of Travis Perkins plc and Construction Leadership Council Industry Sponsor for People & Skills said a conference, which brought together senior Ministers from government and industry leaders addressed one of the biggest challenges facing the UK - the skills gap. 

Nick Roberts was part of an esteemed panel at the government’s Business Connect-Skills for Growth conference, featuring the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt. 

Roberts said: "Construction makes a significant contribution to the UK’s economy - just under 9% GDP - so addressing this and developing a more diverse and skilled workforce is vital.

"The Construction Leadership Council has set out a clear plan for how to tackle these challenges by creating more entry routes for high-skilled, well-paid jobs, encouraging businesses to invest in their workforce and to adopt modern methods of construction, particularly focused on the transition to net zero. 

"Working in partnership with the government is paramount, if we are to deliver this plan and create a built environment that we can all be proud of."

Other speakers at the event included Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, Skills Minister Robert Halfon and Business Minister Kevin Hollinrake alongside the government’s independent skills policy adviser, Sir Michael Barber.

In May 2023, there were 1,051,000 job vacancies in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. 

In 2019, 24% of vacancies were the result of skills shortages.

Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said: "I know from my years in business that organisations drive innovation and create opportunities, but without skilled workers, it often feels like you’re driving with the handbrake on.

"The government is investing in building future skills for growth and calling on businesses to work with us, so that together we can build the workforce of tomorrow.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: "While unemployment is at near record lows, we still have some 1 million job vacancies in the UK. 

"Getting businesses the skilled workers they need will not only grow the economy, but help cut inflation too."

Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said: "Successful companies need skilled workforces and as the Business and Trade Secretary I want to listen to the needs of business to ensure that the skills system delivers for them, creates even more highly skilled jobs and grows the economy.

"This conference is vital to show how government can support business to build our skills base and ensure we have the right workforce for the jobs of the future.

"In addition to the conference, the government is urging employers to hire more apprentices, especially younger workers, and to invest more in training and upskilling their workforce."

He added the conference also highlighted the wide range of government-backed courses and support which is available, including Skills Bootcamps and Free Courses for Jobs as well as £2.7 billion of additional funding to support businesses to take on more apprentices and the ongoing rollout of T Levels.

More than 200 delegates represented a huge range of different sectors, from engineering and aerospace, to digital technology, retail and managing the environment.

They met many people benefiting from government skills programmes, including apprentices, T Level students, people taking Higher Technical Qualifications and participants in Skills Bootcamps, discussing their experiences.

The event was delivered in partnership with World Skills UK, who organise the participation of skilled UK professionals in the world’s largest competitive skills showcase.

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