Construction industry boom could be strangled by lack of skilled labour says, Antony Rowe, MD of Barker Ross Recruitment
“The construction industry is improving and I have no hesitation in saying that the sector is back on track as Barker Ross experiences growth across our business.
As a recruiter, it is great to see the job market improving compared to the past few years, but we may now be faced with a new problem, a lack of skilled labour. We have to work harder than ever to fill client’s vacancies as skilled construction workers have left the industry or retired and because of the downturn, the new generation haven’t entered the sector.
Although we had a slow start to 2013, business picked up in April and May and since then we have been very extremely busy. Most of our work has resulted from spending on large infrastructure projects such as Crossrail, A435 improvements and the Tram network in Nottingham. Other public sector projects that have driven demand including refurbishment of schools and other public buildings.
All this activity has driven confidence up and the pace of recovery shows no sign of slowing. I have been nervous to go as far as saying the recession is over; but things are certainly feeling better across the UK.
We have started to see more permanent positions becoming available which is another sign of confidence returning as clients are keen to secure the best people for the long term. We are starting to also see the demand for highly skilled labour increasing for both the civil engineering and construction sectors.
However, seven years of low levels of activity has driven people to seek jobs outside the industry and also not encouraged young people to train in the trades we need. In a recent survey of leading construction companies by industry analysts Glenigan, it emerged that the key fear in the construction industry was the shortage of skilled staff, which 80 per cent of the respondents identified. We need to collectively make sure the industry doesn’t suffer and that these shortages don’t slow projects and push up costs.
I think we need to make construction a first choice to young people and inspire people who have left the sector to return. As specialist recruiters we are playing our part by making sure people know about the opportunities available and that it’s not just temporary work, but permanent positions as companies are planning for the future. Confidence alone will reduce people’s nervousness about the industry and keep the ‘pipeline’ of talent coming through.
For the first time in a long time, I think people can see there is a future in building and construction. There are more training schemes and opportunities for people to enter the industry and develop worthwhile careers. Confidence is improving at the moment, but we all have to try and close the gap and make sure the projects don’t suffer or slow because of skills shortages.
As the economy recovers, construction leaders predict the greatest areas for growth in 2014 will be in house building, rail and education. We are already looking at schemes that will encourage a new stream of skilled workers to enter the industry, to keep the flow of candidates going for our clients. If indicators are to be believed, we are anticipating turnover to return to the same level as before the recession. The only thing that will prevent recovery is a lack of skilled people in the right place at the right time and I am determined that we will play an important part in making sure this doesn’t happen.”