New report shows 20% more construction professionals are needed by 2017, but a large London college says there are not enough young people training to join the sector.

The “Higher, Further, Faster, More” report published this week by the Policy Exchange and funded by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and Wates Construction, says that 20% more construction staff will be required in London and the South East between 2014 and 2017.

The think-tank report is calling for the government to shift £500m of funding from universities to further education colleges. It says that Universities are sitting on £12.3bn of unrestricted reserves while colleges are struggling.

Many colleges are finding that, in line with the construction industry demand for more staff, they are getting more applications for construction-related courses.

For example, Barking & Dagenham College has seen a huge increase in applicants for higher level construction design and management courses (those above A-level/Level 3); however, most of the increased applications (exactly 100% increase on last year) are from adults who are already in the sector and are up-skilling. The College has questioned whether the message is getting through to parents and young adults about the career opportunities available across the sector. 

Mike Paxton, curriculum director for construction and engineering, commented on the report saying: “The construction industry is booming right across London, with the residential development on the former Olympic site and with 8,500 skilled workers needed at the Nine Elms site on the south bank by 2016. Our industry partners are crying out for talented young people to train in the technical and professional side of construction as well as the crafts.”

“The College has seen 100% increase in applications from adults for our higher level construction management courses. Many of these students already work in the sector, understand the opportunities, and are up-skilling accordingly.”

“But, many parents and young people don’t realise that you can study for a hi-tech construction management BTEC course right after GCSEs. Careers such as quantity surveying, design engineering and building information modelling need a pipeline of talented, skilled and highly trained individuals.”