'Younger construction workers are paying price for pandemic'

Ian AnfieldIan Anfield
Ian Anfield
The number of tradespeople in their twenties working in construction fell by 10 per cent last year, new research has indicated.

The analysis from Hudson Contract, the industry’s biggest payer of subcontractors, raises concerns over the future supply of skilled labour.

The family-owned business found the number of tradespeople in the other age groups remained broadly stable during 2020.

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Ian Anfield, managing director, said: “Before Covid, lots of commentators, federations and trade bodies were talking about a skills crisis in construction.

“From what we have seen, the industry has shed 10 per cent of its workforce since the onset of coronavirus.

“It seems the majority of these were aged between 20-29, the ‘improvers’, time served or formally qualified trades who still have a bit to learn and have yet to hit their peak productivity and earning power.

"It is vital for government to keep the industry working through the pandemic and to continue to support the housing market so that we can get these people back on site. If not, what happens in five years’ time? Where is the pipeline of skilled workers we need to deliver new housing and infrastructure?”

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The trend was identified after Hudson studied age profiles in its payroll data covering more than 71,000 operatives.

Mr Anfield added: “Anecdotally, we know subcontractors hit their peak productivity and earnings when aged in their mid-thirties to mid-forties. They have the experience and physical strength to crack on with a job, and they tend to work more hours.

People in their twenties are still learning the trade. The construction industry has to be careful about maintaining the flow of improvers."

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