Could Brexit impact the skills shortage?

A survey of construction firms found that 59% of respondents feared that a Brexit vote would make it more difficult to find suitable workers in the industry, writes property consultant Richard Carr.

Shortage

Richard Carr bricklayers

The current shortages are benefiting tradsmen

The demand for temporary workers in the industry has increased over the past year with shortages accounting for a rise in bricklayers’ wages to £1,000 a week as competition for site workers intensifies.

70% of respondents to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation’s (REC) survey felt that the shortage of skilled workers is one of the most significant risks to their business.

Bricklayers in London are now earning £15-25 an hour as a shortage of skilled staff sends pay rates spiralling.

Sustainability

Although this is good news for tradesman at the moment, questions are being asked about the sustainability of this trend.

REC Chief Executive Kevin Green said: “If you work in construction you can expect to be earning £34 a week more than last year, and our data indicates that some employers are increasing pay faster as the competition for skilled workers intensifies.

“Whilst this is great news for builders and tradesmen, there are hard questions that need to be asked about the sustainability of this trend.

“The UK is close to full employment and building firms are already struggling to find the people needed for major infrastructure projects.

“If Britain leaves the EU there’s no doubt that recruitment for some construction roles will become even more of a challenge.

“Whatever the outcome of the EU referendum we need to address deep-seated skills shortages.

“That means more apprenticeships, greater investment in skills development by employers, better careers guidance in schools, and more work experience opportunities so that young people are shown the potential benefits of a career in construction.”

Opportunities

According to the survey the following trades are proving hardest to fill:

  • Surveyor 55%
  • Other trades 50%
  • Bricklayer 43%
  • Project manager 34%
  • Labourer/General operative 20%
  • Architect 14%

Richard Carr believes that leaving the EU will make the UK a more attractive prospect to European workers and will encourage more to take up trades within the industry.