A skills shortage that hit bricklayers and carpenters has now spread further across the construction industry, driving up the costs for small firms, according to the Federation of Master Bricklayers (FMB).
The FMB’s State of Trade survey for the fourth quarter of 2016 found that:
- Almost half of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have struggling to hire roofers (46%)
- The shortage of electricians and plasterers is at its highest point in four years
- However, the SME construction sector has experienced 15 consecutive quarters of growth
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “We’ve been experiencing a severe shortage of bricklayers and carpenters for quite some time – these latest statistics show that skills shortages are now seeping into other key trades such as roofers and plumbers.
“Indeed, of the 15 key trades and occupations we monitor, 40 per cent show skills shortages at their highest point since we started to feel the effects of the skills crisis in 2013 when the industry bounced back post-downturn. This growing skills deficit is driving up costs for small firms and simultaneously adding to the pressure being felt by soaring material prices linked to the weaker pound.”
Berry also raised fears that Brexit could further impact the industry if the new immigration system fails to replace the free movement of people that serves key sectors such as construction and house building.
“Our sector relies heavily on skilled labour from the EU, with 12 per cent of the British construction workforce being of non-UK origin,” he continued. “As the construction industry represents around seven per cent of UK GDP, it’s in no one’s interest to pull the rug out from under the sector by introducing an inflexible and unresponsive immigration system.”
Furthermore, he revealed that demand for private refurbishment work was “robust” in 2016, while builders expect workloads to grow in the first three months of 2017 in relation to private and social housebuilding.