The UK marketplace is no stranger to skill shortages, but for the first time, lives could be at risk (outside the healthcare industry). The shortage this time is in the area of health and safety.
According to statistics reported by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), half of the current membership will retire in the next 15-20 years. Nearly 50% of subscribers are aged 50 or over.
A problem that needs to be addressed now
With nearly two decades until the “worst” happens, it is tempting to believe that the IOSH is worrying about nothing. But there is a genuine problem in the foreseeable; just 4% of IOSH members are aged under 30.
This means that people retiring from health and safety disciplines are not being replaced. There are not enough young people entering the industry to provide health and safety advice in future.
New training in the pipeline
To help plug the gap, the IOSH has announced plans to offer a new apprenticeship towards the end of this year. The Level 3 “Safety, Health and Environment Trailblazer” apprenticeship qualification will make it easier for young people to start a career in the sector.
The apprenticeship will take 24 months to complete and will be equivalent in value to a full A-level. Importantly, employers across a wide range of sectors, including construction, have been consulted to ensure the qualification is of genuine use in the workplace.
Plans for the new apprenticeship qualification were first published in April 2017, and it should finally be made available to learners in the second half of this year.
Capturing attention early
Another surprise revelation from the IOSH is about how people came to be working in health and safety. Apparently, just 8% of registered members actively chose a career in health and safety.
Interviews with the other 92% show that workers are more likely to “fall” into the job – usually from a completely different discipline. The new apprenticeship is intended to help raise the profile of health and safety-related careers with school leavers, and help people enter the field earlier.
What about now?
Despite the IOSH’s best intentions, there is no guarantee that young people will sign up to the apprenticeship. If uptake is lower than expected, there will still be a shortfall of skills at some point in the future.
If this does become a problem, construction firms will need to look elsewhere – more specifically, at the use of third-party consultants. Not only does this guarantee access to skills, experience and knowledge, but also helps avoid entering a bidding war for hiring suitable employees.
To learn more about the skills gap, health and safety consultancy services and how Veritas Consulting can help with both, please get in touch.