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Has the Economic Downturn Affected the London Construction Industry?

There’s been a lot of talk in the press over the last couple of years about the knock on effects of the economic downturn for the construction industry. While that may be true of the country at large, the London construction industry faces at least some good news – in the form of the Olympic stadia and Villages being constructed in time for the 2012 games. In addition, emphasis on regeneration of existing empty sites and reclamation areas, rather than the creation of new building projects, has shifted some of the industry without actually removing the work.

The short term effects of the Olympic building effort and local government reclamation projects (where unoccupied buildings are bought by the council and tendered to create new business, education or public spaces) have offset the post downturn crisis to some extent: but there is still a significant shortage of qualified workers in the construction trades following the crash. That’s opened the floodgates for new workers to find their niche in the industry. Every week more and more candidates apply for the CSCS Health, Safety & Environment Test.

Rebuilding Construction in London after the Crash

As more new workers come up through the Construction Skills Certification Scheme, and more apprentices gain their NVQ Levels on the job, construction in London is starting to look up. In 2009 there was a severe shortage of skilled construction workers following the slump in housing prices. The shortage has yet to grow out – and some say that the industry still hasn’t recovered from the shortage of high level skill sets that developed in the wake of the 1990s recession. Trades that were once oversubscribed are now looking for new bodies: and the CSCS, which offers an industry wide measurement of the capabilities of the new workers, is able to help measure the rise in skills as it happens.

The overriding worry for the London construction industry is that a lack of current skilled workers may lead to a gap in management level candidates in a few years’ time. Perhaps current optimism in London construction, still riding high from a string of Olympic successes, will translate to a rapid rise in the skill levels of existing candidates as they climb the ladder themselves.

What the Olympics has Done for Construction in London

The effect of the Olympic building projects on construction in London has been obvious. As stadia and accommodation projects have been completed successfully and on time, the Olympic enterprise has blown a breath of air into the industry – and has generated a large amount of construction worker employment into the bargain. Extra construction workers have been drafted into the London construction industry to help keep the projects running to timely completion – and to date there hasn’t been so much as a whiff of an unsatisfactory news story about the rate and quality of building. With the Olympic Park over 80% finished and the Velodrome already being hailed a sustainable construction icon, there’s clearly life in the old dog yet.

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