Examining employment and skills challenges in the construction sector

Results from a major IFF Research study examining employment and skills challenges in the construction sector, the potential impact of proposed visa changes, and the future plans of employers, non-UK born construction workers and recruitment agencies, have recently been published by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The study provides robust, up to date evidence to help inform decision making by the UK Government, the construction sector and CITB in the run-up to, and following, Brexit.

The research found that the majority of employers with non UK-born workers do not consider the ‘low skilled’ visa route proposed in the government’s White Paper suitable for their business. Specifically, many felt that the 12 month time limit would be too short because training new workers will take much of that time, and many projects last longer than a year. Moreover, many have concerns that this visa will make it harder to recruit staff, lead to skills shortages, lead to difficulty retaining staff, and increase administration and red tape. The study also found that non UK-born workers are keen to ‘train to remain’, enabling them to move from a low to a high-skilled visa, while continuing to work in the UK.

Mark Winterbotham, the Director at IFF Research who led the research, commented “This was a challenging project to deliver, particularly getting permission and then interviewing migrant workers on construction sites, and in different languages, but the experience of undertaking similar work twice previously for CITB certainly helped. We’re very pleased the CITB have used the findings so quickly and developed recommendations for government to help ensure that the new migration system works for the construction industry.”

Non UK-born workers have long played a key role in the British construction industry, and currently accounting for 54% of the construction workforce in London. According to CITB Policy Director, Steve Radley, the industry is preparing to respond to this challenge by training more home-grown workers.

DfE’s 2019 Employer Skills Survey in full swing

We are delighted that this year’s Employer Skills Survey (ESS) is in full swing, with our interviewing services team busy speaking with respondents from around the country. Commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) ESS is one of the largest business surveys in the world with over 80,000 interviews conducted during each iteration. It informs public policy and provides the comprehensive source of labour market intelligence on the skills challenges employers face.

As we experience a period of increasing uncertainty, with extensive market forces impacting on employer skills needs and skills gaps, it has never been more important to understand the labour market. Given the importance of this research to inform public policy and support business, we’re really proud to have been chosen as the delivering research partner for both 2019 and 2021, continuing our 20-year involvement.

And, while neither its existence or launch will be news to many, there have been some notable changes to this year’s survey. Following extensive review and in collaboration with DfE and their partners in the survey: The Department for the Economy of Northern Ireland, and the Welsh Government, two key developments have been made to increase the value of the research and address gaps in the evidence.

  1. Merging ESS and EPS

The first notable change to this year’s research was the merger of ESS with its sister survey, the Employer Perspectives Survey (EPS).

The EPS focuses on what drives employers’ decisions around recruitment and people development. This insight serves to improve initiatives to help individuals find work, as well as improve initiatives that support business growth and development of the workforce, so they better meet the needs of employers. The EPS has previously been conducted in alternate years to the ESS capturing the views of over 18,000 employers across the United Kingdom.

This merger offers an exciting opportunity to:

  • Continue providing evidence on skills landscape and track changes over time
  • Enable employers’ actions to be linked to the skills challenges faced, thereby;
  • Answering new research questions, such as the relationship between skills shortages and recruitment practices, and the engagement in policy initiatives

2. Random Probability Sampling

Also new for this year’s iteration, following the continuous improvement and development cycle embedded in the survey’s history, is a change to the sampling strategy. Following extensive review in partnership with The Stats People, we’re trialling full random probability sampling in one region with over 7,000 employers. The trial alone, for a CATI survey, is a significant undertaking – and will be larger than many B2B CATI surveys deploying random probability sampling. This is an important step towards potentially rolling out full random probability sampling for the survey in the future, which would be on an unprecedented scale.

Together, these changes have balanced the need to continue this important time series, while using a modularised approach to bring in substantial new policy content on areas such as apprenticeships, traineeships, leavers from education and the employment of young people. This innovation aims to greatly increases the value of the survey to policy makers, allowing for the first-time examination of how employers’ actions are linked to the skills challenges they face.

“The Employer Skills Survey (ESS) is an extremely valuable survey, providing robust quantitative evidence on the skills that employers demand, both from the labour market and their existing staff, how employers respond to their skills challenges through training and recruitment, and their views of and engagement with the skills system.  We decided to merge the Employer Skills Survey (ESS) and Employer Perspectives Survey (EPS) this year, to maximise the value of both surveys by enabling cross-analysis of each survey’s topics.  The new merged survey will provide valuable insight on both employers’ internal skills challenges (formerly covered in the ESS) their engagement with the external skills and training system (formerly covered by the EPS), and how these inter-relate.”

Ramona Franklyn, Department for Education

Can’t wait for the 2019 results? Take a look at the 2017 results published last year.

Employer Perspective Survey 2016 results here.

More information about the 2019 survey is available here.

IFF Research leads redevelopment of the UK Employer Skills Survey for the Department for Education

IFF is delighted to have been commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to continue our long running involvement with the UK Employer Skills and the UK Employer Perspectives Survey series. This is one of, if not the largest business-to-business survey conducted in the UK (and further afield), and the 2019 study will involve a survey of over 80,000 employers.

We have been commissioned to undertake a major review of the sampling and questionnaire design, using our many years of experience to merge the previously two separate surveys (the UK Employer Skills Survey and the UK Employer Perspectives Survey) into one. Later this year we will resume our role as Lead Contractor (responsible for delivering and quality assuring all aspects of the study from sampling, piloting, fieldwork, through to data reduction, analysis and reporting) and one of three fieldwork contractors. We are looking forward to continuing these roles, which we have previously held for past iterations of the UK Employer Skills Survey in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

This is a very exciting win for IFF. This is in no large part because of it is size, scale and importance: in measuring employer demand for skills, the recruitment challenges employer face, and their training response, and by enabling detailed analysis by region, LEP, sector and occupation, the research will provide valuable insight to develop and assess labour market policy in what are likely to be challenging years ahead.

Results of the previous UK Employer Survey and UK Employer Perspectives Survey can be found here:

UK Employer Skills Survey

UK Employer Perspectives Survey

IFF’s sixth report on research among post-16 providers published by DfE

The report from the latest wave of the Post-16 Institutions Omnibus, which IFF conducts for the Department for Education, has just been published. This is the sixth wave that IFF has conducted. It presents the findings of telephone interviews with Head Teachers and Principals of over 400 post-16 institutions (FE colleges, sixth form colleges etc.) and almost 250 private training providers in England. This wave covered such topics as AS and A level reform, careers education, mental health, provision at Level 4 and 5, teacher workloads, and the Prevent Duty and Fundamental British Values.

Click here for the full report.