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News Release

Bristol

Construction skills crisis looms as South West house building sector hits six-year high


Bristol, 25 October 2013 – The South West’s construction sector is staring down the barrel of a skills shortage just as new figures show that the region’s house building sector has hit a six-year high, according to property adviser Jones Lang LaSalle.

During the recession, many construction workers left the industry to find jobs in other sectors and, while figures from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors reveal the building industry is showing signs of recovery, margins are still tight. This means employers may not be able to entice skilled construction workers back to the industry in time to catch the upsurge in activity.

Simon PeacockSimon Peacock, head of the buildings & construction team in the south west, said: “While it’s positive news that the house building sector in the region has turned a corner, we know that many construction companies are struggling to find the right skills to deliver the jobs.

“The problem is compounded by the fact that employer’s investment in apprenticeships dropped off during the recession so we have fewer skilled construction professionals in the pipeline.

“This could mean that developers can’t build as quickly as they would like with skilled trades particularly difficult to find.  Any inability to meet, what is only at present a modest increase in demand, is concerning given the degree of pent up demand for new housing and other developments following this deep recession.

“As demand grows it is likely that developers with well-known or long term projects will need to secure quality labour much earlier and those entering the market with an urgent project are likely to find limited or no availability unless they are prepared to pay for it. Consequently marginal schemes will be delayed and may even be brought to a standstill.

Problems with the supply of construction materials are also becoming apparent, says Simon.

"The lack of skilled people isn’t the only problem. We know of several companies in the area who have not been able to progress their projects as quickly as they want because suppliers have been caught unawares and are not able to meet the uplift in demand for essential building parts, such as doors and bricks.

“This is a worrying time for the industry. Continued low profits make it difficult for the industry to react quickly enough to resolve the issue.

“The figures released this week should give construction companies the confidence boost they need to make the investment that is required to attract people back to the sector.

“But the industry needs to act fast or we face a crisis which could have far reaching effects.”