New report from Uponor highlights concerning skills shortage within M&E

New Uponor Ecoflex pipe installation at Ongo Homes project in Scunthorpe. Image © Darren Casey/DCimaging

A skills shortage within the mechanical and electrical (M&E) sector is significantly adding to the pressure on the construction industry amid the UK housing crisis according to a recent report from Uponor.

Uponor’s report draws on the findings of a survey of more than 250 construction professionals, including architects, specifiers and M&E engineers, on the challenges the sector faces, in particular within M&E. The research emphasises the importance of tall residential buildings, with 85% of respondents citing an increase in high-rise construction as the best solution to the housing crisis.

More than 20% of the total construction costs of high-rise buildings are allocated to M&E services, with those working in the sector playing a crucial role in helping a building achieving optimum performance. In line with this, it is fair to say that the apparent M&E skills shortage is contributing significantly to the slowdown in the delivery of the high-rise buildings required to solve the housing crisis.

With 158,000 job roles needing to be filled over the next five years to meet building targets, the sector fears that a lack of opportunities within M&E will see the problem worsen. Uponor’s research found that over two thirds of under 24s are not empowered to explore M&E or its modern ways of working, highlighting the challenge the sector faces when recruiting the necessary talent. Industry respondents also indicated that young people aren’t given the required tools, training or responsibility to be able to introduce the appropriate products, systems or methods of installation in high rise buildings.

Commenting on the findings, James Griffiths, project development director at Uponor, said: “As highlighted by our research, the construction sector feels that an increase in the number of tall residential buildings is essential to help solve the ongoing housing crisis. With unrivalled knowledge of the products, systems and solutions needed to achieve end user satisfaction, M&E contractors are crucial to the successful delivery of high-rise buildings and as a result, urgent action is needed to solve the obvious skills shortage in this area. 

“Overseas, where construction is positioned as thriving, governments are offering grants to their most skilled tradespeople, encouraging them to launch businesses in specific fields within construction, such as M&E. In the UK, there is very little exploration of these niche roles meaning they stay under the radar, typically becoming jobs young people fall into rather than seek out.

“Ensuring that apprenticeships are not only available to the young people who are considering a career in construction, but that the industry positions M&E specifically an attractive prospect to the next generation of potential specialists is a starting point. As an industry, we also need to ensure we have the correct processes and platforms in place to encourage young people to find employment in the sector and give them the tools and motivation to prosper, as we continue to work together to solve the housing crisis.” 

Uponor’s report on the role of M&E in the future of high rise buildings can be downloaded in full here: