Survey finds skills shortages are still rife in construction sector, despite growth

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19th February 2016 11:53 - Construction

According to the Construction Products Association’s most recent Construction Trade Survey, in Q4 of 2015, activity in the UK’s construction sector increased for the 11th consecutive quarter. This growth was seen across almost all areas of the construction industry, despite persistent labour and recruitment issues.Survey finds skills shortages are still rife in construction sector, despite growth

The survey saw the construction companies in the survey report new building activity in the housing, private, infrastructure and commercial sectors.

Of the main building contractors, almost a quarter (23 per cent) said that their construction output increased in Q4 of 2015, in comparison with 2014. As well as this, 31 per cent of specialist contractors said the same.

Of the SME contractors, 6 per cent reported an increase in enquiries and workloads in Q4 of 2015, in comparison with three months prior.

Senior Economist at the Construction Products Association, Rebecca Larkin, said of the market research findings:

“It is encouraging that growth continues to be reported across the entire construction supply chain. Overall, the near-term outlook appears positive, as firms from construction product manufacturers at the beginning of the supply chain to specialist contractors, SME builders and civil engineers carrying out work on the ground reported modest increases in enquiries, orders or anticipated sales for Q1 and the 12 months ahead. Main contractors’ order books suggest some weakness in Q1, however.

“Growth will continue to be led by work in the private housing, industrial and infrastructure sectors, but there are clearly areas that are languishing. Activity and orders were reported to be lower in public housing, which reflects the headwinds facing housing associations and local authorities amid recent policy decisions. Orders were also reported to be lower for repair and maintenance (R&M), both housing and non-housing, in Q4.”

Of the main contractors in the survey, a total of 25 per cent reported a rise in orders in private housing, whereas industrial orders were higher for 6 per cent of the respondents. According to 55 per cent of main contactors, public housing orders declined in Q4 of 2015.

60 per cent of the main contactors in the survey claimed that they have had difficulties in recruiting carpenters. Approximately 50 per cent said the same for plasterers and 47 per cent said the same for bricklayers in Q4, whereas 41 per cent of the main contractors reported an increase in labour costs in Q4, in comparison with Q3.

Larkin added:“A shortage of skilled on-site labour remains the largest threat to construction activity over the coming months, however. Half of main contractors found it difficult to recruit bricklayers, carpenters and plasterers in Q4, which continues to exert upward pressure on wage bills and raises the concern of whether expected volumes of work can be delivered.”

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