Skills shortage in UK construction now at six-year high

Photo:   Tim Tabor

The skills shortage in the UK’s construction sector is now at its highest level in six years, the RICS has warned.

54 per cent of respondents to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ Q2 2014 survey say there are insufficient numbers of quantity surveyors currently available to meet workloads (up from 41 per cent in Q1).

The figures show private housing, commercial and industrial sectors are driving strong growth across the whole of the UK, with particularly encouraging performance in the Midlands, which saw workloads rise at a record pace (57 per cent net balance).

But there is now a shortage of white and blue collar workers to meet that growth, says the RICS. 59 per cent of respondents reported shortages of bricklayers and 51 per cent reported a shortage of managerial workers coupled with difficulties in the sourcing of some key building materials, which is likely to result in upward pressure on costs and prices, while also presenting a challenge to further strong growth in the sector.

“The UK construction market is mirroring the natural consequence of a rise in demand after five subdued years,” says Alan Muse, RICS Director of Built Environment. “The upsurge in housing demand is creating pressure across an industry which failed to invest in attracting new talent or in the training of existing employees at the height of the economic downturn and this in turn is creating similar effects among material supply.”

Despite this, employment prospects for the sector remain firm, as the industry gets to grips with meeting rapidly rising demands from a historically low base. Across the whole of the UK, a net balance of 60 per cent of respondents expect employment to rise over the next 12 months, with London and the South East outperforming the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland’s employment prospects steadily improving (31 per cent).

“The good news is that there is reason for optimism,” agrees Muse, “with workloads, profits and employment all forecast to deliver growth over the next 12 months”.