Construction News

Tue April 20 2021

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Skills gap shows no signs of easing

7 Aug 15 Employees in engineering and construction are the most sought after across the entire UK economy.

That’s one of the key findings of the latest monthly report on jobs produced by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) and accountants KPMG.

At 68.3 in July, the index measuring demand for permanent construction employees was up from 58.6 in June, and pointed to a strong rate of expansion that was above the UK average (63.2). 

The equivalent index for temporary/contract construction workers came in at 69.6, up from 61.0 in June and indicative of a marked and accelerated rate of growth. The UK average for short-term workers was 62.2.

Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s head of infrastructure, building and construction, said: “It is clear we are in the grip of an industry wide skills shortage, which shows no signs of abating.  Businesses are struggling to find the talent they need and this will have long term implications for their growth plans and potentially impact the wider performance of the UK’s economy.  In July over two fifths of recruiters reported a fall in the number of people looking for work, the steepest decline seen in eight months.

“The construction industry in particular is struggling to keep pace with demand, with businesses heavily recruiting both permanent and temporary workers.  This is driving significant pay growth in the sector of almost 5%, even outstripping Britain’s surging services industry which in comparison saw pay increases of just over 3%.

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“The risk is that a shortage of skilled labour in this sector could impede Britain’s major building projects and put the brakes on the country’s booming real estate market. 

“The likelihood is we will see no immediate improvement to this situation. We are already seeing hints of a summer slowdown, as both businesses and candidates put their jobs plans on hold and take holiday over August.”

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: “The shortage of construction workers is a particular concern. If construction companies don’t have the people they need, both infrastructure projects and house-building will be constrained, and this will have an impact on wider economic growth.

“As students wait in anticipation of A-level results next week, the focus for business and government has to be on making sure that people entering the workforce have the best opportunities to succeed. Businesses need to be prepared to hire staff with potential and invest in their development. We need the government to provide more effective careers advice and encourage people to study the right subjects. And while these changes are feeding through into the jobs market, we need a sensible and balanced approach to immigration so that employers have access to the workers they need.”

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