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Major contractors blame the self-employed and small construction firms for the industry’s skills shortage . . .

The Construction Leadership Council has put forward its ideas for solving the industry’s skills shortage – and top of the list of ‘big ideas’ to take us into the future is to ensure that there are fewer self-employed builders!

“I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” says Hudson Contract Managing Director Ian Anfield.  “The CLC is Government-appointed and run by a group of ‘influential business leaders’, for which you can read major contractors.  Their Future Skills Report, co-authored by a director at Laing O’Rourke, blames the skills gap on the fact that construction has so many small and medium sized businesses – and then proceeds to urge clients to draw up an employment code that is designed to squeeze out the self-employed.”

It’s not only Hudson Contract that is astonished by the report and its conclusions.  A statement from IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed says:  “There are roughly one million self-employed construction professionals – close to half the total number of those working in the entire sector.  Their talent and abilities are key to enabling construction firms to be more productive, more dynamic, avoid idle downtime and make valuable labour cost savings.

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“The CLC has happily overlooked all these benefits, and ignored the reality that traditional nine-to-five employment doesn’t always work in construction.  Each build is made up of different stages, and each stage requires different specialisms. It doesn’t make sense to employ bricklayers, electricians, architects or plasterers on a permanent basis, when each of them will only be required for a specific part of the project.”

Ian Anfield agrees.  “Self-employed construction workers are part of the solution, rather than scapegoats for the problem,” he says.  “Instead of labelling them as unskilled or underskilled, why not make training grants available directly to the self-employed?  Or give tax breaks to those who take time off work to train?  Surely those are two recommendations that are worth considering.

“Make no mistake, this is a report designed to protect the vested interests of the big boys and their associates.  Just think about it.  The self-employed are unlikely to join trade unions.  The CITB needs to justify its levy scheme.  And the major contractors want clients to use a smaller number of construction firms so they can swell their turnovers, and persuade the stock market that their shares are worth something.

“I suppose it’s easy to mock those who have a long history of failure, and at least they are saying something.  But the most sinister shadow over this report is the continued message that small and medium sized businesses are bad, and that individual entrepreneurial initiatives need to be stamped out.  The bottom line is that the big boys want to increase their stranglehold on the industry by way of more outsourcing.”

The CLC report is here

Ian Anfield

Ian Anfield

Managing Director, Hudson Contract

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