Skills shortage threatens construction industry growth
Contractors expect continued strength in private housing and commercial building projects this year after the latest Construction Trade Survey revealed a significant rise in new orders for housing, commercial and infrastructure work in the final three months of last year.
Increased activity was led by the private housing sector, in which 53% of firms reported a rise in output. Output was also driven by private commercial, the largest construction sector, where 40% of firms reported rising volumes of offices and retail work.
And while larger contractors expect work on the priority school building programme getting underway to boost their order books in 2015, smaller operators reported a slowdown in new enquiries during the back end of 2014.
The pan-industry survey also reveals that labour costs rose for 57% of firms and 68% of respondents said materials costs rose in Q4 of 2014 compared with the previous quarter.
The rise in labour costs is being put down to skills shortages in the construction industry. UK Contractors Group director Stephen Ratcliffe said: “Recovery in construction is good news for everyone in the industry. Hopefully, possible political changes in the UK and economic uncertainty in the Eurozone will not damage the industry’s growth prospects. Cost pressures continue to be a worry largely reflecting skills shortages. That is why UKCG members are focusing their activities on attracting new people into construction.”
Those efforts appear to be bearing fruit in Scotland, with number of building apprentices registered north of the border rising 7% to 1,553 in 2014, according to the Scottish Building Apprenticeship and Training Council.
The 2014 registration figure is 20% higher than the number of Scottish building apprentices indentured in 2012, when numbers reached a 15-year low of 1,299. But apprentice numbers remain 42% below their historic peak of more than 2,700 apprentices registered in 2007, immediately before the recession.
For more details of the Construction Trade Survey, click on the link below:
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