Our industry faces a shortage of skilled workers that is expected to get worse. But there are solutions that benefit both business owners and workers, as HVCA president John Miller explains...
Had you asked me a few weeks ago what was the strangest thing I had ever had to do in the line of duty, I would have paused for thought. But ask me now and I will answer instantly - I went skydiving. And as the photo shows, I even managed to look like I enjoyed it.
I took the plunge at an indoor skydiving centre to launch Business Plus, an initiative to highlight how the HVCA group of companies can help businesses trade more efficiently and more profitably. You would be amazed at the range of specialist advice, guidance, and services available to support your commercial activities. Hence my stunt - to reflect the Business Plus slogan: I didn't know you could do that.
You may not have known, for example, that there is a multi-faceted answer to one of the burning issues facing our industry, the shortage of skilled labour. If we are to avoid this becoming a serious problem, we need to address it now. But many employers are unaware of the many different ways they can do this.
The construction industry has expanded during the past 12 years, and at least five more years of growth are forecast. A Chartered Institute of Building survey found 77% had problems recruiting last year and 72% believed they would not be able to meet the demand as a result.
Work on the approaching Olympic Games is exacerbating the problem. According to research by the sector skills councils, 13,000 construction workers and 1,500 electricians and plumbers are required to ensure the 2012 Olympics are ready on time - and they will be ready on time. Games-related projects have the finances to entice workers with large salaries, making staff recruitment and retention an even bigger challenge for the whole industry.
The last three years of the Olympics project are expected to be the most damaging. Small to medium size companies may not have the financial clout to compete on wages but they have something deeper to offer, by rewarding staff loyalty with employee benefits such as life cover, pensions, sickness cover, and private medical insurance.
Another issue is employee benefits. Some employers suspect that these only benefit the workers not the proprietor or shareholders. But that is not true. Employee benefits can also benefit the bottom line. As managing director of the Shouksmith Group, I have learnedhow important it is to our continuing success to attract and retain skilled workers.
To add this strength to your staff recruitment and retention, a good starting point is Welplan: an HVCA subsidiary that has been offering employee benefits since introducing the h&v industry's sick pay and death benefit scheme in 1955. Because Welplan provides benefits for 40,000 employers, it has the negotiating strength of a large employer - making it possible for smaller companies to compete with the big boys. Employee benefits package start at just £72 per employee per year.
Another way to meet the demand for skilled labour is to develop the skills of your current staff - who, if they are developing with you, will be less inclined to drift away to a competitor.
The HVCA encourages young people into the industry through Building Engineering Services Training; runs training and assessment schemes such as that of Piper Assessment; offers advice and guidance on vocational education, training and employee development; and, through its employment affairs department, can help you more broadly with engagement and management of the workforce.
All of these things add up to what I, as a managing director, think of as the unfair advantage. On the HVCA website, you can find out how your business can gain this advantage. The next five years will see an industry divided between those companies who thrived and those who missed the chance. Now is the time to act.