Built Off Site
Posted: Apr 15 2016
Can Willmott Dixons plan to build half their planned housing units “off site” help the trade skills labour shortage?
Time served skilled experienced trade labour in the housing sector is in short supply and has been for many years.
The endless desire by the volume house builders to create an off site model where they depend less and less on the key site trades has only exasperated the trade shortage.
While the concept of an off site system, that can for example ensure consistent quality and on time delivery for the end user, the skills that the house builders are desperate for at the moment become watered down and eventually are so diluted that it results in the skill shortages of today.
These off site products will eventually need maintenance and replacement, so the skills will still be needed in the near future.
Why are we short on skilled housing site labour?
In the last 20 or so years recessions and price squeezing have disaffected a good proportion of good people who have turned their backs on the industry.
Off site production has also had a huge affect, take carpentry as an example; pre hung internal doors, these turn up on site ready to slot into a prepared opening, a few screws and that’s it.
Certainly cost has a part to play for the house builders in this example, but 20 or so years after these pre-hung doors appeared on sites, it is now more difficult to find a carpenter who can hang a door from scratch.
If this example is multiplied by all the different trades on housing sites, we start to see the problem that the house builders are creating for themselves.
Off site production surely will only kill off valuable skills for the future?
Consultation on skills and the future of skilled labour is always taking place within the industry; high-powered executives sit around at posh venues and try to fix the problems of the skilled labour shortages.
When are the people at the sharp end, the trade contractors, the brickies, the carpenters, and the plasterers consulted?
Are the opinions of these people on the future of key trades not worth listening to?
Use it or lose it?
It seems that the stakeholders in house building can only look to the next site or possibly a few years ahead.
The long-term security of the key trades is paramount, and large scale off site production will only add to its demise.
The need to train more apprentices is ongoing and should be championed, but if all these apprentices are taught to do is install pre made modules, where does that leave the valuable on site skills that are desperately needed?
It seems that the house builders are missing a trick.
Should the house-builders have their own training body?
Should they train all their own trades?
A training school specifically for house building?
Train each trade on building a house; A bricklayer how to set out, a carpenter on how to cut and pitch a roof, a plasterer how to set beads. A painter how to achieve the required standard, train them how to build your products!
Set the process in place now, so that in 10 years you have the trades needed to build your houses!