KBB skills crisis could worsen as demand grows for carpenters and joiners

The skills shortage crisis in the KBB industry has taken a new twist as job adverts for carpenters and joiners are on the rise.

Shortages of workers for everything from designers to installers to LGV drivers have been issues for many months. However, vacancies for carpenters and joiners saw a considerable rise in the past few weeks recently, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).

Across all jobs in the UK, the average weekly trend for the number of active job postings has risen since mid-June. The weekly average from August 23-29 was 1.66 million. These figures by REC also found that the past five weeks have seen the highest weekly figures in job adverts since mid-December 2020.

Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said: “Demand for workers remains very high across the economy and shows no signs of weakening. However, with businesses in the particularly squeezed food, logistics and hospitality sectors starting to gear up for Christmas, the months ahead could be difficult – even with a large number of people coming off furlough in August and September.”

Damian Walters, CEO of The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI), warned the industry that the lack of carpenters and joiners meant the skills shortage would hit every facet of the KBB industry.  

Walters said: “The alarm bells need to be ringing as the REC report does not come close to the full scale of the worker shortage crisis. Industries that are essential to home improvement delivered by skilled professionals are predominantly made up of self-employed traders not covered by job vacancy statistics.”

The home improvement boom of the past year has stretched the industry, with Walters reporting lead times going from weeks to months for new kitchens and bathroom installations. But the demand for skilled tradespeople is not a short-term issue, as the BiKBBi has been reporting shortages for many years before the pandemic.

Walters continued: “Like other industries though, we are seeing a major shortage of people able to take up jobs. Put bluntly, there are just not enough skilled installers to keep up with the current boom in consumer demand for home improvements. This means customers are having to wait months instead of weeks.

“Unfortunately, this lack of skilled tradespeople is part of a long-term trend. Not enough young people have been encouraged to come into industries like ours, despite the prospect of the high-earning, stable career that it offers. We’ve got by for too long with an ageing workforce that is now looking forward to retirement – with over a third of installers suggesting that they are making retirement plans in a recent survey we ran. This means that the current shortages could get much worse over the coming years.”

Walters added: “Other industries have called for an expansion to the Shortage Occupation List that allows skilled workers from overseas to take up jobs in the UK, but this would at best be a sticking plaster. What’s needed is a nationwide effort to encourage youngsters into the industries that people rely on, alongside sustained investment into skills training. We’re doing our part with a new apprenticeship programme launching this year, but it’s going to take the full effort of industry and Government working together to deal with this crisis.” 

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