Skills: Construction SMEs and crafts’ 10 action points to address skills and labour needs in construction

During the closing event of the European Year of Skills, the European Builders Confederation (EBC) released a position paper with 10 action points to tackle the significant skills and labour challenges facing the construction sector in the European Union (EU). At a critical juncture, construction SMEs and crafts are facing profound challenges and transformative opportunities, including a skills transition that requires action at the local, national, and European level.

At the core of the challenges of the construction sector is the structural shortage of skilled labour and the impending retirement of seasoned craftsmen and craftswomen, leading to an urgent demand for skilled workers. This situation is exacerbated by low appeal to young people in several countries, a cross-sectoral war for talent, and the complexification of skillset required by the sector’s digital and environmental transition.

To address this situation, in the spirit of the European Commission’s European Year of Skills and Action Plan on Labour and skills shortages in the EU, EBC calls for immediate action at local, regional, national, and European levels. The 10 action points plan titled “Crafting the workforce of tomorrow” urges policymakers to:

  1. Celebrate skilled crafts, artisanry and vocational trades to change the narrative as a transitioning sector: Changing the image of construction is essential to make vocational careers more attractive and put vocational training at the same level as university education.
  2. Promote apprenticeship and mentorship and encourage better detection and orientation of talent: Supporting construction SMEs in shaping better targeted training schemes will enable them to invest more time and resources in new talent.
  3. Better identify, map, and anticipate the sector’s skills needs in light of the Green Deal: There is a pressing need to map and address skills gaps at local, national, and European level, for a more holistic European view of available and missing resources in construction.
  4. Prioritise investment in training, apprenticeships, and vocational education in construction: Both public and private financing should be invested in facilities, equipment, and incentivization schemes to support SMEs in upgrading their training approach.
  5. Reinforce dialogue and collaboration between public authorities, social partners, and educational institutions at all levels: Positive cooperation and inclusive discussions are crucial for a better long-term match between training offer and skills demand.
  6. Simplify, rationalise, and streamline certification and qualification systems: By simplifying regulatory frameworks related to training and education, businesses will be encouraged to prioritise skills development and provide education opportunities.
  7. Integrate entrepreneurial, digital, and green skills horizontally across all construction trades: Increasing green concepts and digital technologies require more construction companies led by entrepreneurial spirits and workers with advanced skill sets.
  8. Maintain a continuous effort to optimise health and safety training at work: Occupational health and safety (OHS) training should always be the first step in the construction sector, in a stable, realistic, and SME-friendly OHS framework.
  9. Make the sector more inclusive and appealing to female talent: Investing more human and financial resources in diversity and inclusion initiatives targeting women in construction would contribute to tackling gender imbalance and better showcase female ambassadors.
  10. Adopt a pragmatic approach to migration as a solution to skills and labour shortages in construction: Unlocking the potential of migrant expertise is a strategic move toward addressing the persistent labour shortages in the European construction sector.

The EBC’s position paper aims to foster a skilled and adaptable workforce with construction crafts and SMEs that can meet the challenges of today and the future. By addressing coherently these challenges, local, regional, national, and European policymakers will act decisively to ensure that the construction sector can contribute to the EU’s sustainability and competitiveness.

EBC Vice-President Jean-Christophe Repon declared: “For small construction companies, their main resource is their entrepreneurs and employees. In an ever-changing European environment for buildings and construction, transitions are numerous, and all require a solid transition of skills in parallel. With the green and digital evolution of our trades and training, we need to promote together this transition more effectively to improve our attractiveness and image, especially among talented women and young people.

To consult the full EBC position paper on the skills and labour needs in the construction sector, click here