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Construction Skills Shortage Worsening, Study Shows

Construction: Building highrise

A new survey has shown that concerns about the recruitment of skilled construction workers looks set to become even worse, The Construction Index reports.

According to the Federation of Master Builders’ trade survey – which looked at the final quarter of 2014 – the difficulty of hiring skilled joiners, bricklayers and carpenters is a lingering problem for small construction companies.

The federation explains that the construction sector is continuing to feel the effects of the most recent economic downturn; however, the issue of fewer contracts coming in has been replaced with concerns about a significant skills crisis.

The survey reveals that the proportion of firms struggling to find bricklayers has risen from 27% in 2013 to 42% in the fourth quarter of last year. In terms of carpenters and joiners, nearly double the amount of firms have had difficulty recruiting tradespeople with these skills, with figures jumping from 23% in Q4 2013 to 44% for 2014.

As well as this, there is also an increasing shortage of roofers, plasterers and site managers, notes the FMB’s chief executive officer Brian Berry.

Berry explains this “skills time bomb” is the result of various factors. Firstly, some 400,000 construction workers left the trade when the financial crisis of 2007 hit, some of which have never returned. In addition to this, the recent economic recovery has meant that workloads are on the up; meaning that the skills gap is likely to widen before it gets better.

“The FMB is working hard to help address this skills shortage but the Government must also play its part,” says Berry.

“If ministers could do one thing to help address the problem it should be to review its proposed apprenticeship funding reforms, which our members tell us will prevent them from being able to train apprentices.”

“In the midst of a skills crisis, it’s the last thing the construction industry needs,” he added.