Skills shortage threatens construction recovery

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A new survey of small and medium-sized construction firms has revealed many struggle to hire skilled workers, placing the sector at risk…

A poll carried out by the Federation of Master Builders has highlighted the impact of the skills shortage on the construction sector.

The data collected revealed many small and medium-sized firms were finding it difficult to hire bricklayers, carpenters, and joiners. This inability to employ skilled workers could have serious consequences for the sector’s recovery.

The poll revealed firms found employment picked up for the sixth quarter running and that while growth was expected to continue during the next quarter concerns over skilled workers were being brought to light. About half of the 400 firms surveyed said they had experienced issues recruiting bricklayers.

The shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry is hardly a new problem, but it is concerning nevertheless. The sector suffered terribly in the wake of the economic downturn and has worked hard to get back on an even keel.

Chief Executive of FMB Brian Berry said the shortage of skilled workers continued “to loom large over our industry”.

He added: “Almost half of construction SMEs are struggling to recruit adequate numbers of bricklayers, with others finding it increasingly hard to hire carpenters and joiners, site managers and supervisors.

“Looking ahead, our members are reporting that their workloads are likely to rise over the coming three months which means the shortage of skilled workers will only become more acute.”

The federation is now calling for the government to strengthen and clarify plans laid down by the chancellor George Osborne to introduce a levy on large employers to fund apprenticeships.

He said: “If the levy on large employers is only used to fund apprenticeship training by large employers, how will apprenticeship training by small firms be dealt with?

“Given that two-thirds of all construction apprentices are trained by micro firms, it’s vital that we have a system in place that drives high levels of apprenticeship training through companies of every size.”

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