• What is a skills shortage?
  • What has caused the current skills shortage?
  • How can your business deal with the issue?
  • Conclusion

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK at the start of 2020, there had already been an increasing amount of conversation around an impending skills shortage and how certain sectors were going to cope. Fast forward two years and the pandemic has exacerbated this issue, resulting in an increasing skills gap in sectors throughout the UK – the housing sector included.

As professionals, the skills shortage is something we are all aware of, but what has been done about it in the housing sector and how can your business deal with this issue moving forward? Fortunately, at ROCC, we have put together this handy guide to support you and highlight why efficiency is now more critical than ever.

What is a skills shortage?

In order for a skills shortage to exist, there needs to be more vacancies than job seekers. When this happens, it can have a huge impact on both the general public and companies, with potentially disastrous consequences for wider society and the economy. Theoretically this means that looking for work should be easier for employees and their chances of securing a job should increase, but unfortunately for companies, this means that they may not be getting the right people through the door.

If companies can’t find the right people, then vacancies can build up and hamper performance, not just for a business but also for the whole economy. It is therefore important that companies pursue innovative strategies to deal with a skills shortage in order to survive.

What has caused the current skills shortage?

In a lot of sectors, the current skills shortage has been caused by a number of factors, but in most cases, the two biggest contributors have been Covid-19 and Brexit. In terms of the housing sector, housing organisations are experiencing both chronic labour shortages and a reduction in materials availability, meaning that planned maintenance programmes are having to be postponed.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, the amount of skilled workers returning to jobs in construction has been poor, as tradespeople have started questioning how and why they work in the industry. This issue has been heightened by the fact that Brexit has made it increasingly difficult to rely on cheap European labour. Not to mention the recent sector demands to accommodate net-zero targets.

It’s therefore easy to see how the sector has managed to find itself in its current position and unfortunately it doesn’t look like these issues will disappear anytime soon. However, there are certain things you can do to help your business deal with the current skills shortage. Let’s face it, a lot of businesses don’t have a choice at the moment, as a heavy Covid backlog has added to sector-specific demands and the labour required just doesn’t match the supply.

How can your business deal with the issue?

Having discussed what a skills shortage is and the cause behind the current situation, let’s take a look at how you and your business can try to cope.

Make jobs more attractive

This consideration isn’t specific to the UK housing sector, as employees worldwide have started to reevaluate what they do and question job satisfaction. The onus is therefore on businesses to make jobs more appealing and give employees greater incentives to either stay or join as a member of staff. This can come in many forms, such as training, professional development, better diversity and inclusion programmes, more work benefits, an improved office environment, and much more.

You need to be able to showcase what exactly makes a career in the sector exciting and unique. How does your business stand out from the competition?

Offer better wages

If the housing sector doesn’t accommodate the rising cost of living and match the pay found in other sectors, then its workforce will choose to leave for better opportunities elsewhere. Costs are obviously increasing for businesses at the moment as well, so getting the balance right is incredibly difficult. Perhaps it’s time to reassess your salary structure – is it fair across the company and does it reflect the hard work of your staff?

When recruiting staff, you’ll also need to think hard about the salary you’re offering and what skilled workers are expecting. If you’re not competitive, then you won’t be able to attract the very best.

Improve current staff retention

This feeds into what was discussed in our last point, but money isn’t everything! Companies need to also take training and development seriously, as holding onto your best workers is absolutely key, especially for highly-skilled positions. When it comes to social housing organisations, think about what it may take to encourage specialists with transferable skills to continue working in the sector and the change in expectations and aspirations that have arisen post-Covid-19. For example, this may include:

  • Better training and improved professional development
  • More competitive wages and bonuses
  • Flexible or remote working where appropriate
  • Company perks and benefits
  • Environmental considerations and better corporate social responsibility

Partner with local schools and colleges

Plan ahead by targeting our future workforce. For a lot of young people, a career in the housing sector may not be particularly appealing, and most of us in the housing sector are familiar with the common phrase “nobody grew up wanting to work in housing”. However, with the right information and education available to them, they may see that there is more to working in the industry than meets the eye. By partnering with local schools, colleges and universities, you can start to think about developing training academies and apprenticeship programmes. You can also tailor these programmes to prioritise key areas that will require more staff in the future.

Initiatives like this are all about exposing young people to the opportunities at their disposal and capturing their imagination. Hearing from sector professionals first-hand is always better than receiving that information online or in a textbook.

Develop transferable skills

Following Covid-19, more and more people are looking to change careers. Having transferable skills is therefore very important, not just for employees’ own personal reasons, but also for the success of a business. By training your current staff and working on broadening their skill sets, you’ll be able to provide additional support in areas where vacancies are high and also encourage high-performing staff to try their hand in other areas of the business.

In terms of recruitment, it also means you can look slightly further afield and target people that have the relevant skills to succeed in your business. The finer details of a job can always be taught, but having the right attitude and ability to learn is something that’s hard to find. By looking at prospective workers from other industries, you’re opening yourself up to an abundance of talented workers.

Conclusion

It won’t be easy and the road ahead will be challenging for the housing sector, but your business must start developing effective strategies now before it’s too late. The huge disparity in the supply and demand of skilled workers in the sector is likely to continue for quite some time. If you continue to stall or wait for additional government support, then you may find that your business will be unable to recover. Start thinking about what’s been discussed in this article and aim to make your business more resilient, so you can start attracting the right people to plug the skills shortage and make a full recovery from Covid-19.

We strive at ROCC to help organisations save money and increase efficiency by improving planned and responsive housing maintenance. This involves making sure that people at a housing association can be diverted to areas where they may be needed most at any given time, which can be incredibly helpful when labour resources are stretched.

If you’d like to speak to a member of the team about how we may be able to help you, then why not get in touch today?

Contact us for more information