Skills shortages reach record highs among specialist contractors

The number of specialist contractors struggling to recruit skilled labour has reached its highest point in 14 years, according to the latest state of trade survey from the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC).

Almost half (47%) of specialist contractors experienced more difficulty recruiting in the first quarter of 2015 than last year compared to just 2% who found it less difficult. This balance of 45% is the highest recorded since 2001 and, according to the NSCC, is a result of the low number of applicants with the required skills.

As a result of this skills shortage, 28% of respondents were unable to bid for work, which is higher than at any time since the recession.

The NSCC survey also suggests this skills crisis is likely to get worse, with 65% of respondents reporting an increase in enquiries during the first quarter of 2015 – up 27% on the previous quarter – and 54% reporting an increase in orders. Due to the shortage of workers, tender prices have been impacted, with a record 54% reporting to the NSCC that they experienced an increase. Suppliers’ prices are also rising in line with demand, with 82% of specialist contractors seeing higher prices from their suppliers for the second quarter in a row.

Suzannah Nichol, chief executive of the NSCC, said: “The growing construction market is great news for specialist contractors but we need to tackle head-on the skills crisis that is facing the industry. If we do not invest in recruiting and training people with the right skills, the industry will not be able to meet demand and this will impact on the wider UK economy.”

Despite skills issues, confidence remains high within the sector, with a record 78% of respondents to the NSCC survey anticipating an increase in workloads over the coming year.

To read the NSCC State of Trade survey in full, click here

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