Contractors warn it has never been harder to recruit skilled workers

Civils contractors have sent out a stark warning by saying the current skills shortage is the worst it has ever been with dissatisfaction with the supply of skilled staff in England is at record levels.

Analysis of data from the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA)’s quarterly Workload Trends Survey identifies the chronic issue which continues to stifle companies charged with delivering projects across the country.

The survey undertaken by the trade association reveals that future supply of skilled operatives was the largest concern for firms in all parts of the UK. 

Elsewhere in the survey, CECA members reported a marginal increase in work in 2018 Q3, with 10% of British firms, on balance, reporting increased workloads, compared to 6% in the previous quarter. However, seven out of 10 sectors reported falling workloads, on balance, with gas recording the weakest balance (-58%), followed by local roads (-21%).

The picture in Scotland is shown to be bleaker with the growth in workloads seen across the rest of the UK partially offset by poor results north of the border where workloads fell for a fourth successive quarter. 

Commenting on the latest report, CECA director of External Affairs Marie-Claude Hemming said: “There are now serious concerns as to the ability to attract skilled staff to cope with a growing market. There is a substantial pipeline of work to be delivered in the coming years. Industry and Government need to work together through the Construction Sector Deal to respond to these challenges.”

Furthermore, order books did rise for 15% of firms, and 27% expect increased workloads over the next year. While 60% of firms reported higher tender prices, for new construction work - the highest since 2015 Q2.

Employment data across three nations painted a mixed picture in Q3. In Britain, on balance, employment of staff and skilled operatives increased according to 29% and 11% of firms, respectively. For other operatives however, 1% of firms, on balance, reported a decrease in employment in Q3.

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