Despite evidence that the UK economy is on the rise the construction industry is still suffering from severe skill shortages and lack of resources. Scaffolding is one of the most affected trades, with recent data from the Office for National Statistics indicating that despite an increasing demand for workers the number of trained scaffolders in the UK remains worryingly low.

One of the major factors driving the lack of British scaffolders is the industry’s failure to replace the hordes of labourers who switched professions during the economic downturn. For years industry experts have been emphasising the immediate need for the sector to seek out new apprentices and expand training processes in a bid to address the ever increasing skills shortage.

While the economic downturn turned a blind eye to the deficiency,the UK’s recent surge in construction and building projects has propelled the scaffolding shortage into the spotlight.The rapid recovery of the new-build housing industry has driven recent demand and is expected to continue to do so in 2015. Yet with a diminishing workforce analysts are predicting that scaffolding contractors will struggle to meet growing industry demand.

 Jon Stone, Commercial Director at Malvern Scaffolding explains, “Theoretically we could double the size of our business tomorrow, but in reality this is impossible as it takes two years to train and qualify a scaffolder.”

The number of employed scaffolders has been consecutively falling over the past four years, dropping from 33,900 in 2010 to just 29,600 in 2013. This represents a decline of 14%. The recently published Construction News Barometer clearly reflected industry concerns over skills and resources shortages, with 97% of respondents revealing they are apprehensive about the lacks of skills and staff over the next 12 months. The image below offers visual insight into the relationship between scaffolding firms and employees from 2007-2013.

scaffolding industry chart

Image via: ONS

While major contractors have been taking steps to actively increase their workforce many smaller companies are still lagging behind when it comes to training new workers and hiring qualified professionals. So what measures can be taken to ensure that the scaffolding talent pool is bought into line with current industry demand? According to the experts the key lies largely in the hands of existing contractors. They’re calling on scaffolding businesses to invest in training, promote the industry and ensure that the sector can reap the benefits of the rapidly recovering building and construction industry.