Modern methods of construction would reduce numbers needed to build new homes

Almost 200,000 workers will be needed in the construction industry by 2025 if the Government’s target of 300,000 new homes a year is to be met, but this fall substantially if new construction methods are adopted.

An analysis by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) examined the effect that an increased uptake of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) in home building could have on the workforce requirements for delivering new homes in England.

Various research studies have indicated that MMC require less on-site labour to assemble homes than brick and block construction methods and potentially require a smaller workforce with different skill sets from those currently being used.

However, limited information is available on the impact of MMC on the overall workforce skills requirements. As there are a range of MMC types, the study focused on the changes to the workforce profile and found that an increased uptake of MMC can influence future workforce requirements.

If the ambition of 300,000 homes was met by home building using current construction methods, it would require an additional 195,000 workers by 2025, a rise of 40% on current workforce estimates and an annual average increase of over 24,000 new workers per year through to 2025 to 2026.

The report says that one of the main occupations in demand would be bricklayers, whose availability is already a concern for the sector. An increase in homes built based on scaling up of existing build types would exacerbate those concerns. The training rate of around 3,000 learners per year achieving bricklaying competence qualifications in England, appears to be insufficient at the moment, and demand for an extra 2,000 bricklayers per year would require training rates to possibly double in volume to bridge the gap between demand and supply.

It adds that even with adoption of MMC towards 2025 to 2026, in the short term it is likely that there will be increased demand for a workforce that supports the existing mix of build types, unless there is very rapid uptake of MMC. However, increased use of MMC could reduce this to around 158,000 additional workers.

The report also highlights that the home building sector looks set to face a series of challenges. In the short term it will need to grow and develop workers to support homes built using the current construction methods.

While in the medium to longer term it will be necessary to maintain the onsite workers at the same time as developing the offsite workforce to deliver MMC builds, the report explains.

There is also the need to upskill existing workers to cover the site management, integration, onsite placement and assembly that will be increasingly required for MMC and to ensure that the professional, management, technical and non-manual workforce develops the digital skills that will be an increasing part of construction work in the future.

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