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An opportunity to diversify the workforce

25 Nov 2019

An opportunity to diversify the workforce

On 12 December, registered voters will head to the voting stations across the UK to vote in a third election in five years.

This follows a long period of deliberation about the UK’s place in European Union which raised many relationship issues relating to the built and natural environments; most notably, immigration and the UK skills shortage.

RICS has, for many years, raised concerns with regard to the UK construction sector, which has found itself within the midst of a skills shortage, and on the cusp of a retirement ‘cliff-edge’. The construction sector’s skills needs and issues in the UK are well documented. We have an aging workforce - with about 25% being aged between 50 – 59; and 20% being over 60; and a growing workload that requires us to attract 230,000 more recruits.

The negative impact on the sector of this fact are already being felt – on a regular basis, our Construction and Infrastructure Market Surveys reveal that a significant proportion of those surveyed felt that a skills shortage was a constraint on growth.

This is illustrated by the growing housing and infrastructure workload requiring the UK to attract 400,000 more recruits a year to meet current housing and infrastructure needs, which equates to one recruit every 77 seconds .

Quantity surveyors alone account for 7,325 of this total need

Needless to say, RICS welcomed the inclusion of quantity surveyors on the UK Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in October 2019, but a "hard" Brexit could see a loss of around 214,000 workers from the EU by 2020, and workforce shortages are also evident in various sectors that operate with the UK's rural economy – including agriculture, horticulture, forestry, marketing and other key sectors.

The UK's future, post-Brexit immigration policy has not been confirmed; but even prior to the debate around an immigrant workforce, RICS has always pushed Government to focus on the pipeline of domestic talent; with an emphasis on diversity.

Diversifying the workforce is a key ingredient to tackling the skills shortage in the built and natural environments – within and outwith the boundaries of the Brexit immigration debate.

Future policy

There are a number of policies the next Government could introduce to nurture the pipeline of future talent and introducing more diversity in the way that the industry recruits and operates.

Two stand out policies, raised in RICS' Manifesto for election, include: adopting the IEQM and by becoming a signatory, as well as encouraging built environment employers to follow suit; and, in conjunction with industry leaders, take action to tackle the gender pay gap, enable career progression, and support access to senior leadership roles to increase the retention of woman mid-career in the built environment.

The outcome is the ironing out of some of the cyclical challenges the construction industry faces, reducing future bottlenecks and widening participation. There are, of course, numerous other benefits.

We recognise that diversification within the land and built environment by increasing the number of women working in the sector is not a one size fits all remedy to tackling the skills shortage, however, it is a key contributor and very much a necessity.

RICS is leading the sector in terms of promoting diversification and encouraging future talent to consider a career in the built environment. Despite this, delivering on home grown talent will take time. Therefore, in the short- to medium-term, access to external labour sources is critical.

RICS is playing a significant part in developing domestic skills by supporting the design and delivery of the Design, Surveying and Planning T Level, as well as promoting apprenticeships alongside other routes into the sector. All of these activities contribute to improvements in the diversity of the sector so that we have access to a larger pool of labour and talent.

Other recent activities and initiatives to promote diversification in the build environment include Property Needs You , the RICS Inspire workshops , and a diversity drive which looks specifically at attracting more women and greater ethnic and socio-economic diversity to the sector.

Article & Image Source: RICS

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