Home builders are demanding 30,000 more bricks
Industry groups have warned the UK needs more than 30,000 extra bricklayers to meet the government’s ambitious housing target.
The construction sector has been impacted as tens of thousands of migrant workers returned home during the pandemic and chose not to return.
To fill this gap, in July the Home Office expanded the Shortage Occupation List – which lists occupations considered in short supply – to allow more bricklayers, tilers and roofers to obtain UK work visas.
But it didn’t solve the problem. The Home Builders Federation estimates that it takes 2,500 bricks for every 10,000 homes built.
That means around 75,000 are needed to meet the government’s goal of building 300,000 new homes every year by 2025.
Shortage: The Home Builders Federation estimates that it takes 2,500 bricks for every 10,000 homes built
However, since there are only 42,000 bricklayers in residential construction, an additional 33,000 bricklayers are now needed.
According to the Construction Industry Training Board, the average bricklayer salary in the UK is £37,500.
While the work-from-home measures have been welcomed by the industry, they have also sparked fears that the UK is not addressing the broader problems of bricklayer recruitment and training.
Paul Westhead, head of development at One Heritage Group, a London-listed housing developer focused on northern England, said: “If the Government is ever to meet its annual target of 300,000 new homes, something radical has to happen to reverse the trend.”
“Even so, it could take over a decade to build up a sufficient inventory of native artisans to even come close to meeting demand.”
“Policies to make it easier for foreign tradespeople to work in the UK would certainly help compound the shortage of bricklayers in the short term, but they will not solve the larger problem.” An aging workforce is putting pressure on recruitment in the industry elevated.
According to the National Federation of Builders (NFB), one in five home builders is over 50 years old.
Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing and planning policy at the NFB, said Britain would benefit from a “one-to-one” visa system, whereby a company hiring a foreign worker must train a British apprentice for the role.
Julian Walden, former President of the Bricklayers’ Guild, said: “On large construction sites there isn’t a single apprentice and they are inundated with subcontractors.”
Keith Aldis, executive director of the Brick Development Association, warned of a “potential ticking time bomb if investment in skills and new workers is not made”.
Darryl Stewart, head of commercial services at the National House Building Council, said the key to tackling the skills shortage is to ensure there is more national investment in training everyone interested in bricklaying.