A local response to a national problem

Offering re-training to adults, as well as recruiting apprentices, is key to addressing both national and local skills shortages in the construction industry.

By Brian Wilson
Thursday, 12th May 2022, 9:33 am
Iain Macaskill: Shortage of labour is the biggest issue.
Iain Macaskill: Shortage of labour is the biggest issue.

That is the experience of Stornoway-based Lewis Builders who have just recruited 11 new trainees.

The company’s operations director Iain Macaskill said: “Seven of the new recruits are apprentices while four are adults looking to re-skill for a change in direction. Opening it up to adult trainees definitely makes sense”.

Lewis Builders now employ almost 100 people – a significant number in an island context – and are engaged in a stream of prominent local contracts.

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These currently include the Leverburgh Community Hub, Carloway Community Centre and the Tarbert ferry terminal building.

“We are in a very fortunate position,” said Mr Macaskill, “but if you speak to anyone in construction just now, the biggest issue, ahead of materials, their rising cost and availability, is labour.“In recent years, we have been faced with a steady decline in workers leading to a national shortage of skilled operatives, coupled with a shortfall in the number of youngsters wishing to embark on a career within the construction industry.

“As a company, we are involved In a range of initiatives to counter this – work experience programmes, employability programmes and so on. We are investing in our own future because we cannot operate without a workforce”.

Mr Macaskill said that using social media had helped the recent recruitment campaign by “getting the word out there”.

He hoped more local people, both school leavers and adults, would think about the construction industry as a career – or change of career – option.

The Lewis Builders efforts represent a local response to a national problem.

A new survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has found that three quarters of companies were struggling to find workers – including skilled trades and labourers – while the Office for National Statistics shows vacancies in the construction sector are at their highest on record and double where they were before the first lockdown.