North East construction skills shortage at highest level for six years

There is a shortage of quantity surveyors in the region to meet current workloads, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) says

David Davies/PA Wire Skills shortage concerns in the construction industry across the North of England now stand at their highest level since 2008
Skills shortage concerns in the construction industry across the North of England now stand at their highest level since 2008

Skills shortage concerns in the construction industry across the North of England now stand at their highest level since 2008, with 49% of respondents saying there are insufficient numbers of quantity surveyors available to meet current workloads, up from 44% in the first quarter of 2014.

Nationally, 54% of respondents reported a shortfall of quantity surveyors, up from 41% last quarter.

The figures, revealed in today’s Rics (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Q2 2014 Construction Market Survey, show private housing, commercial and industrial sectors are driving strong growth across the whole of the UK. In the North, 35% of respondents said they were seeing rising workloads, while there was particularly encouraging performance in the Midlands, which saw workloads rise at a record pace (57% net balance).

However, a shortage of white and blue collar workers – across the UK, 59% of respondents reported shortages of bricklayers and 51% reported a shortage of managerial workers – coupled with difficulties in the sourcing of some key building materials – brick imports were 63% higher than in Q2 2013 – is likely to result in upward pressure on costs and prices, while also presenting a challenge to further strong growth in the sector.

In the North, as well 49% reporting a lack of quantity surveyors, 49% of respondents said there was a lack of other professional or managerial workers. The shortage of blue collar workers, including bricklayers, plumbers and electricians, rose to the highest level since 2006, with 40% of respondents reporting difficulties filling positions, up from 25% in Q1.

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% 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%). In the North, a net balance of 51% of respondents expect employment to rise, down slightly on Q1, when 60% expected a buoyant jobs market.

Alan Muse, Rics director of built environment, said: “The UK construction market is mirroring the natural consequence of a rise in demand after five subdued years. 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.

“The good news is that there is reason for optimism, with workloads, profits and employment all forecast to deliver growth over the next 12 months and it is now the responsibility of industry to invest in training and technology to ensure it capitalises on these opportunities.”

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