Lancashire’s construction industry needs to act now to ensure it does not slip into a skills gap, according to a business leader in the county.

Francis Egan, chief executive of Cuadrilla Resources, said the predicted 2.5 per cent growth in the sector over the next five years will put pressure on businesses to be able to keep up the demand, especially in infrastructure and private housing projects.

A study by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has forecast that 232,000 jobs could be created as a result of this, and that more apprentices are needed.

Cuadrilla, the company behind shale gas exploration in Lancashire, is sponsoring the Construction Business of the Year award at the Be Inspired Business Awards, the BIBAs, for a second successive year.

Mr Egan said: “We cannot build Britain without the right skills to do the jobs, whether those are structural engineers, bricklayers or those in non-construction roles in support of the industry.

“I hope this positive outlook around the industry will encourage more firms to look at apprenticeships as we seek to deliver solid, sustained growth which will bring jobs and prosperity for generations to come.

“Cuadrilla is proud of the partnerships it has formed with the likes of Blackpool and The Fylde College as we seek to boost the skills in Lancashire to ensure it is ready to take advantage of the benefits we believe shale gas can bring to the region.”

Last September, Bamber Bridge-based Conlon Construction was named the Construction Business of the Year at the BIBAs, which has 18 prizes up for grabs to businesses across Lancashire.

The BIBAs is now open for applications with the deadline for entries due to close on Friday, April 8.

In 2015, Ian Hall, the chairman of Preston-based retail group James Hall and Son, collected the lifetime achievement prize, Lancastrian of the Year, when the BIBAs handed out its prizes in front of a sell-out crowd at the Blackpool Tower in September.

Social enterprise Jobs Friends and Houses CIC, which works with ex-offenders, won its Most Inspiring Business of the Year prize and individual prizes went to Phil Lawson of Skelmersdale’s Virtue Technologies, who won Entrepreneur of the Year and Louise Wilkinson, who runs Nelson-based Lomeshaye Village Day Nursery, who was named Business Woman of the Year.