Call for Scots construction firms to aid homeless and fight skills shortage

Edinburgh Homeless Young Person

Image courtesy of the Rock Trust

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) is calling on construction firms in Scotland to help tackle the skills shortage in the industry by helping some of their community’s most vulnerable people get back into work.

It has been predicted that the UK construction industry will create around 190,000 new jobs by the end of 2018 but there is a growing fear that there will not be the talent to fill them.

Recent RICS research has shown that the UK construction industry could lose almost 200,000 EU workers post-Brexit, should Britain lose access to the single market.

With this in mind, RICS is urging construction firms to provide routes into employment for young people who have experienced homelessness by offering more training-led programmes, adapting their working practices and getting involved with specialist ‘back-to work’ schemes for those facing barriers.

One such scheme that has proved highly successful is Business in the Community’s ‘Ready for Work’ programme which more than 150 businesses have adopted, supporting people who are at risk of homelessness through training, work placements and their progress into employment. In return, businesses – such as global construction firm Carillion – benefit from cost-effective recruitment opportunities and stronger links with their local community.

David Picton, chief sustainability officer at Carillion, said: “The Ready for Work programme changes lives. It has trained and equipped our job coaches to work with vulnerable candidates, enabling us to offer over 1100 work placements across services and construction contracts. In turn, it’s brought some inspiring personal development for those job coaches, and brought new talent into our business that might otherwise have been overlooked.”

Gail Hunter, RICS regional director, Scotland, added: “It’s important that employers in the construction sector tap into hidden talent pools, and instil or adapt various working practices to give vulnerable young people the best chances of gaining and staying in employment. These include offering work on permanent or temporary-to-permanent contracts; developing effective training programmes with a buddy or mentor; having appropriate HR policies and procedures in place – including weekly pay options – and working with specialist ‘back-to-work’ schemes.”

Thousands of British construction workers are coming up for retirement age and the RICS has long warned the government that the shortage of skilled workers – particularly quantity surveyors and bricklayers – is detrimentally affecting the house building industry, with an estimated 1.8m new rental properties needed by 2025.

Gail added: “We appreciate that a lack of a stable and settled home makes it extremely difficult to find and maintain employment. With this in mind, we have launched an anti-homeless campaign known as ‘A Home for Cathy’ which will see us calling on the wider property sectors – as well as the government and advocates for change – to pledge their support for our campaign which aims to provide solutions and commit to actions to deliver more affordable homes.

“Despite the barriers they may face, most young people who have experienced homelessness or housing issues want to work – it can bring a sense of purpose, increased confidence and can be a route into a new and better life. We believe that with the right support, many more can achieve just that.”