Construction in Wales faces a skills time bomb warns leading builder


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The Welsh construction industry faces a skills time bomb as an aging workforce heads towards retirement, a leading building industry figure has warned.

Tom Anwyl, Director of Anwyl Construction, which currently has over £100 million of projects on its books and which is building in several  areas of the county, is concerned for the future of one of the UK’s key economic sectors.

He said: “The construction industry is one of the key areas of the local and national economy and is a barometer of how that economy is faring.

“Traditionally we lead the way out of a recession and often the first signs of an impending slump are felt in the building industry but what concerns me is the looming shortage of skilled workers.

“This amounts to a ticking time bomb as skilled workers approach retirement and there is a shortfall of those being trained to replace them.

“At Anwyl we are proud of our record in training – 20 per cent of our staff of 150 actually began with us as apprentices and many of those are now in senior positions within the company.

“We encourage our sub-contractors to take on apprentices and their willingness and commitment to apprenticeships is one of the criteria we use in taking them on.

“Apprentices are the lifeblood of the industry and never more than now as an ageing workforce combined with competitive salaries from other fields has seen a decline in the number of skilled workers in the construction sector.

“We have built links with the Prince’s Trust and Communities First and work with our client partners to offer work experience and opportunities within the industry.”

Construction contributes over £100 billion annually to the UK economy and employs one in ten of the workforce but industry sources say that employers are struggling to fill up to 20 per cent of all vacancies because they can’t recruit staff with the right skills, qualifications or experience.

Anwyl Construction have had planning permission for their first two major projects in Liverpool within the last six months, a £60 million eco-friendly apartment development in the city’s Pall Mall and a £35 million student residential complex on Norton Street.

They are also busy across North Wales where they are building three extra-care residential schemes worth more than £25 million for major social housing providers Pennaf Housing Group and Grwp Cynefin in Flint, Llangefni and Porthmadog and have more work in the pipeline.

In addition the Anwyl Group’s Homes division, North Wales’s biggest private housebuilder, has expanded its area of operations and plans to build over 1,000 new homes in North Wales and at sites in Cheshire, Shropshire and Lancashire.

Tom Anwyl said: “There is a shortage of housing in the UK and we need to facilitate the development and construction of new and affordable housing and rental accommodation.

“Money also needs to be invested in training a new younger workforce as the bulk of the construction workforce plunges into retirement.

“Construction is an attractive career option with jobs and opportunities available across the sector both on-site and in offices and because of developments in eco-building and in community projects the work has never been so diverse and wide-ranging.

“We work closely with further education colleges to promote apprenticeships and we actually built the construction training rooms at Coleg Cambria’s Deeside site while we have also been involved with the Prince’s Trust in providing opportunities.

“We have also built links with primary and secondary schools in the areas in which we work which aim to educate young people about the opportunities available within construction.

“At Anwyl Construction we are dedicated to thoughtful building and investing in our people and we work with every member of our team to achieve each stage of their personal learning and development plan, enabling them to be the best they can be.”

Tom Anwyl himself worked for oil giant Shell for 11 years on construction projects in the Netherlands and the Middle East after graduating in Civil Engineering at Imperial College, London, before returning to the family firm in 2001.

The company, which was founded in Rhyl in 1930 by his great grandfather, is now headed by the fourth generation of the family and last year moved to new headquarters at Ewloe in Flintshire.

For more information on the Anwyl Group, including career opportunities, go to http://www.anwylgroup.co.uk

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