Skills shortage gets worse for specialist contractors

Skills shortages are preventing 28% of construction firms from bidding for work they would have previously taken on.

The latest state of trade survey from the National Specialist Contractors Council found that 47% of contractors reported that difficulty in recruiting skilled labour had got worse; only 2% had seen any easing of the problem.

The number of specialist contractors struggling to recruit skilled labour is at its highest for 14 years, following significant increases in both enquiries and orders in the first quarter of 2015.

The main reasons cited for the difficulty in filling vacancies were the low number of applicants with the required skills (77%), a lack of required experience (54%) and a lack of required qualifications (41%).

For the first time in 18 years, half of all specialist contractors expected a rise in total employment levels over the next quarter compared to 2% who expected them to fall. Over the next 12 months 64% expected employment levels to rise and no respondents expected them to fall. Contractors stated significant recruitment difficulties with 18 out of 30 trades with the most serious being bricklayers, mechanical fitters and professional staff.

The survey was carried out before last week’s general election and any uncertainty in the run up to voting appears not to have undermined business confidence. Some 65% of specialist contractors said that they were anticipating an increase in workload in the next quarter and a record 78% anticipated an increase over the coming year.

NSCC chief executive Suzannah Nichol said: “The growing construction market is great news for specialists contractors but we need to tackle head-on the skills crisis that is facing the industry. If we do not invest in recruiting and training people with the right skills, the industry will not be able to meet demand and this will impact on the wider UK economy.”