2024 predictions: Five development opportunities within the trade industry

2024 predictions: Five development opportunities within the trade industry

2023 was a challenging year for the economy and the construction industry. Activity has fallen for the third consecutive month due to insufficient new work to replace completed projects. Factors such as the high cost of raw materials, interest rates, and a lack of skilled workers have had a massive impact, with November being the second-lowest reading since May 2020, according to the latest CIPS index.

However, the industry expects to recover in 2024, with the cost of materials predicted to fall and a strengthening in project starts. In addition, opportunities within the industry could have benefits in 2024 for trade professionals and companies. 

Paul McFadyen, Chairman at metals4U, has given his predictions on five opportunities for the industry to develop and how they will benefit the trades next year and beyond:

  1. More women in trade

According to a recent report by Go.Compare, painting and decorating jobs now account for a third (33%) of women in trade, followed by plumbers and electricians. Women in trade jobs are set to rise further industry-wide, as there’s been an increase of 366% in women apprenticeships over the last five years. 

In terms of attracting women into the workforce, there are essential steps to take, from employers treating employees equally and allowing flexibility to simple things such as providing PPE for female workers. Women offer a distinct set of skills and different perspectives, so it is imperative to encourage women into the industry. Alongside continuing to dispel existing stereotypes and making the trade industry attractive to women.

  1. Apprenticeships will be key

According to the Construction Industry Training Board, an additional 225,000 workers will be required to meet UK construction demand by 2027. The latest figures show the number of apprentices starting careers in construction has increased for the first time in six years, with 13.9k apprenticeships in construction that started in the 2023 academic year, and one in 10 going straight into the trade.

If employers need funding, government support is available with an additional £1,000 depending on the apprentice hired. This can be used for training and assessing the apprentice.

Apprenticeships are great as they allow employees to build skills, gain qualifications, and get a feel for the work environment, and many will stay with their employer and continue work. Businesses need to invest in apprenticeship programmes in 2024, especially those within the trade.

  1. Increased focus on sustainability

The recent COP28 summit focused on the construction and built environment sector, calling for adaptation and resilience. Ensuring buildings are designed and maintained so they can work in the future of climate change is imperative. The increased need for renewable energy will lead to a demand for workers in fields such as solar installation and 3D printing in 2024.

Understandably, the environment and climate change are at the forefront of many conversations. In a positive move, the UK has signed up to the Buildings Breakthrough Target, which aims for net zero emissions and resilient buildings to be the new normal by 2030, which is a step in the right direction.

  1. Digitalisation and the rise of AI

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) continuing to grow and develop, there are many ways it is used in the construction industry to save time, reduce risks, and improve output. This includes time-saving improvements on tasks such as design and planning. 

In addition to that, it can also be utilised to improve the construction output’s safety, productivity, and quality. It’s still early days and will take time for things to change, but greater digitalisation, AI, and the use of data could have a real benefit to the trades in 2024 and the years to come. 

  1. Free skills training

The need for workers to upskill will be essential as they will be in the workforce for longer due to an ageing population. Employees need to keep up with technological advancements and gain qualifications next year and beyond.

There are several free courses available to those in construction. A great starting point is The Skills Centre, where you can learn both on and off the job, including health and safety within construction, manual handling, and risk assessments, as well as practical construction training.

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