James Wates: construction faces critical skills gap

The construction industry is threatened by a demographic time bomb if more is not done to address skills and employment in the face of public sector cuts, guests were told by the deputy chairman of construction group Wates at a business luncheon in Manchester.

Speaking in his capacity as chairman of Construction Skills and president of the Chartered Institute of Building, James Wates urged the region's industry to continue to promote apprenticeships throughout the supply chain. He argued they are the "lifeblood of the industry" and will help address the skills shortfall created by the 375,000 construction jobs lost as a result of the recession and those the industry is potentially facing as a result of the recent Spending Review.

Wates is also chairman of the UK Contactors Group and deputy chairman of the Wates Group. He used a visit to some of the company's projects in the region including the £20m redevelopment of Stockport College and the £7m refurbishment of Manchester College's Fielden Campus in Didsbury.

He said: "With a potentially challenging Spending Review due, we must remember that employment and training are essential on a sustained basis. We need to learn the lesson from the 10 years it took to recover from the skills shortages created by the early 1990s recession because we don't want to head back in the same direction. As the numbers of older workers increase and young workers decrease, more and more demographic pressure is being put on the industry and this is something we need to address now.

Representatives from Manchester City Council and Manchester College, as well as a range of architects, surveyors, engineers and construction consultants from across the region's building industry joined James at the Hilton on Deansgate for the event.

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