Building industry still feeling effects of economic downturn

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Leader Live)

A CONSTRUCTION skills time bomb is ticking, with skills shortages on the increase across a number of trades and professions, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). 

Results from the FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey for Q4 2014 show small construction firms are experiencing particular difficulties recruiting carpenters, joiners and bricklayers. 

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “As the shock waves from the latest economic downturn continue to reverberate through the construction sector, concerns over diminished workloads have been replaced by concerns over skills shortages.

This time last year, only 27 per cent of firms were struggling to recruit bricklayers – that figure now stands at 42 per cent. 

“For carpenters and joiners, the figure has nearly doubled with 23 per cent of firms reporting issues in Q4 2013 and 44 per cent of firms now saying these tradespeople are hard to come by. We’re also seeing a rising and significant shortage of roofers, plasterers and site managers.” 

Mr Berry added: “The skills time bomb has arisen for a number of reasons. Around 400,000 construction workers left the industry since the downturn hit in 2007 and many will never return. 

“If you combine this with an increase in workloads as the economy recovers, all the signs point to the skills shortage getting worse before it gets better.” 

“The FMB is working hard to help address this skills shortage but the Government must also play its part.

“If Ministers could do one thing to help address the problem in the medium term, it should be to review its proposed apprenticeship funding reforms, which our members tell us will prevent them from being able to train apprentices.

“In the midst of a skills crisis, it’s the last thing the construction industry needs.”

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