Skills shortages reach 18-year peak

RICS UK

RICS UKThe UK’s construction industry is facing its greatest skills crisis since 1998 according to a new survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The latest RICS UK Construction Survey suggests the country’s skills shortage has reached its highest levels since the survey was launched 18 years ago. Over half of respondents (53%) reported difficulty sourcing labour, with 71% saying they had particular difficulty sourcing bricklayers and 64% highlighting a shortage of quantity surveyors.

This has changed drastically since the same period in 2001, when just 1% of respondents were struggling to find bricklayers and only 15% noted a shortage of quantity surveyors.

In addition to labour supply, 69% of firms said that financial constraints, such as access to credit, were among the biggest constraints to growth, while 60% said that regulatory and planning issues were potent constraints.

Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at RICS, said: “The availability of both blue collar and white collar construction workers is reaching crisis point. We haven’t witnessed a labour shortage of its kind in nearly 20 years. Without the relevant skills, we will not be able to grow many of the Government’s priority construction sectors such as infrastructure.”

In light of recent surveys suggesting levels of work in the construction industry are likely to continue to rise, there is considerable concern that the lack of skilled workers will constrain further growth. Mr. Rubinsohn believes the key is therefore to attract more workers into the industry.

He added: “Part of the problem is the legacy of the collapse in the sector following the onset of the Global Financial Crisis. Many professionals and other skilled workers chose to leave the industry and quite simply have not returned or been replaced. A real focus on attracting more young people into the industry is critical alongside an expansion of apprenticeship opportunities.”