RICS: Skills shortage remains a concern for East Midlands’ construction industry

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A lack of skilled workers across the construction sector remains an issue in the Midlands construction market, according to the RICS Construction Market Survey, Q4 2016.

Skill shortages were the most notable across the Midlands this quarter, and above the national average with a shortage of quantity surveyors being a particular concern.

This quarter 75% of respondents highlighted this to be an issue – the highest figure since 2007.

In addition to the concerns raised over a lack of quantity surveyors, surveyors reported a lack of other construction professionals including bricklayers to be holding projects back.

Despite skill shortages being an impediment to growth, the Midlands continue to report a relatively firm rise in workloads total workloads.

Whilst not as adversely affected by the ‘EU Referendum confidence dip’ as other regions, the sector has now regained momentum with 28% of respondents reporting an increase in workloads this quarter.

Private industrial and infrastructure continues to outpace other regions with 32% and 24% of respondents, respectively, reporting growth in these areas.

During Q4, output increased in all sub sectors; however, public housing continues to grow at the slowest rate with only 2% more chartered surveyors reporting a rise instead of a fall in this area this quarter.

A rocky road ahead

Comments left by survey respondents continue to highlight the growing skills shortage, uncertainty caused by the looming trigger of Article 50 and what impact leaving the single market will have on their companies.

The result of this uncertainty is being cited as one of the reasons behind dampening investment and cautious projections in activity.

Jeremy Blackburn, RICS Head of Policy, said: “Many firms are currently having to bring construction professionals in from outside the UK.

“The lack of quantity surveyors consistently apparent in our survey is also underscored by the fact that, at the moment, under the government’s Shortage Occupation List, it is easier to employ a ballet dancer than a quantity surveyor.

“Even if we were to reverse this and also ensure that through Brexit we maintain access to EU workforce, we would still have a domestic shortfall of skills.

“The Industrial Strategy is a golden opportunity to align education, training and employer work paths – along with modern methods of construction – to ensure we have the skilled workforce to meet our building targets.”

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist, said: “The latest results suggest that the construction sector has shrugged off concerns about the effect of Brexit with key workload indicators remaining firm around the country.

“Indeed, feedback regarding the outlook over the next twelve months is now rosier than it was back in the autumn with more building anticipated as 2017 unfolds.

“That said, there remains some unease about access to skilled labour in the emerging new world and financial constraints still remain a major challenge for many businesses. And significantly, we are being told that a shortage of quantity surveyors is impacting on the development process at the present time.”