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Higher demand and fewer people to meet it: employers are experiencing the worst staff shortages in 24 years.  In the construction industry, these shortages are compounded by price rises and the departure of 1.3 million non-UK workers.  But demand in construction continues to rise – have you scrolled through the listings on our Jobs page lately?  Did you know that a general construction worker can earn an average of £44,880 per annum? 

Industry experts are urging the government to invest in upskilling the workforce – but don’t wait for them to announce an initiative: act now to train or retrain.  At Role Group we offer a range of training courses for those wishing to upskill and get a new construction job.  In this article we examine the current construction boom and the opportunities that it could bring you.  Read on for industry insights, or go straight to our training section.

The post-pandemic rush to build
In the early summer of 2021, the UK was cautiously emerging from lockdown, and – while almost 2 million were still on furlough – work began to increase in the construction industry.

In the private sector, people started to plan extensions or renovations, especially those who were now working from home.

Meanwhile in the commercial sector, office managers started to book repairs and building maintenance ready for their teams to return to work.

This meant that construction work increased sharply in all three areas: house-building, commercial, and civil engineering (IHS Markit -July 2021).  In June, new orders in the construction business had increased by 17.6% (Office of National Statistics) across the board.  (For comparison, the growth rate in August 2020 was 3%.)

Half a million people had returned from furlough since May and, in the construction industry at least, business confidence was largely restored.  Employers surveyed by IHS Markit said that they were confident that orders would continue to grow, but they also expressed concerns at the lack of labour and materials.

Shortages impacting growth

By late summer, these issues were becoming worse.  Supplies from the EU in particular were being delayed, and the driver shortage was creating a backlog.  HGV drivers from Europe were no longer able to cross the border freely, and many stopped driving in the UK.  Delays in receiving materials caused delays to building work, which prevented companies from moving on to the next project.

The price of materials had also become a significant problem.  The Federation of Master Builders said that 98% of their members reported price increases, some of which made jobs unfeasible.  They found that previously-quoted work could not now be delivered on budget.  The Office of National Statistics found that prices on some materials had gone up by 20% since the previous year.

People, as well as materials, were in shortage.  The British Chamber of Commerce reported that 52% of its members had struggled to recruit staff during the last three months.  With the departure of 1.3 million non-UK workers, plus the government’s immigration rules and COVID border restrictions, there were fewer people to apply for new jobs.

Unemployment – which some had predicted would rise after COVID – dropped to 4.7%, narrowing the recruitment pool even further.

These significant shortages of labour and materials slowed down growth and, in some cases, stopped work altogether.

More jobs than applicants

However, analysts currently predict that the supply pressures will ease and the industry will pick up pace again.  Employers and experts believe the current slowdown to be temporary – and that means that there could be thousands of jobs available in the next few months.

In fact, experts estimate that the construction industry could need another 217,000 employees in the next four years.

That’s because, as we have seen, building demand is unlikely to decrease.  For instance, the UK government has pledged to create 300,000 new homes each year, but there does not seem to be the workforce to meet demand.  Hiring temporary staff is a stopgap solution, but ultimately too expensive to continue.

The current staff shortages are not simply caused by isolation or absence; there is a lack of incoming applicants, and it’s not new.  Young people, especially women, are showing little interest in joining the industry and that has created a significant gap.  But this year it’s compounded by additional factors.

Experts have suggested that Brexit, pandemic uncertainty, and the furlough scheme may all have affected the number of job-seekers who are currently in the market.  In August 2021, 11% of the UK workforce was still on furlough – 1.9 million people.

When the furlough scheme ends in September, that means many more people could be searching for a job.  While they’ll find opportunities in plenty of areas, the construction industry currently has high demand.

In some of the skilled jobs, the demand is even higher.  In July 2021, 50% of FMB members said they were struggling to recruit skilled employees in bricklaying and carpentry.  (In fact, this shortage in specialised trades has existed for a few years already.)

Time for some good news?  While it is difficult for small and medium building companies, this has an up-side for employees as wages are being increased in order to attract or keep staff.  Starting salaries have risen at the sharpest rate in history (REC Report on Jobs 2021) and wages for temporary staff have also gone up.  It’s a good time to enter construction.

What could you be earning in a construction job?

Probably more than you expect.  In July 2021, it was reported that a bricklayer’s average weekly pay was £934: a year earlier it was £831.  Joiners were up from £939 to £1041 and general construction workers went from £878 to £935.

Average monthly salaries (July 2021)
Bricklayers: £3,736 (£44,832 pa)
Joiners: £4,164 (£49,968 pa)
General construction: £3,740 (£44,880 pa)
Scaffolder: £2,988 (£35,856 pa)
Roofer: £3,036 (£36,432 pa)
Civil Engineer: £3,456 (£41,472 pa)

Are you ready to move into the construction industry?  Check our Jobs page to see the latest listings.  At time of writing, we are looking for a wide range of people including kitchen fitters, carpenters, groundworkers, drivers and labourers.

Upskill to make the most of the opportunities

Across most industries, job ads have increased and salaries gone up.  So whatever job you’re in – or want to be in – it’s a good time to plan your future.

Among other professional bodies, the Recruitment & Employment Federation (REC) has urged the government to reform the skills system to prevent the current skill shortages from affecting economic growth.

But the early uptakers will have pick of the jobs – so why not take your future into your own hands?   We offer a range of training courses to help you to upskill and earn more money in the construction industry.

Thinking of specialising?
Many of the specialist jobs in construction give you freedom as well as healthy wages.  With the opportunity to work for yourself, plastering, carpentry or brick-laying are all exceptional career choices.  We run a number of courses for those who already have some construction experience, with no formal entry requirements.   These courses are all NVQ Level 2 and will allow you to develop specialist skills in Plastering, Steel fixing, Concrete Occupations, and Demolition, among others.

If you are new to the industry and you are expected to undertake traffic management in the course of your job, we offer Temporary Traffic Management – with no entry requirements.

Want to go into management?
22% of the construction workforce is aged 50+ and if you fall into this category then you may wish to retrain so that the company can retain your expertise. For those looking for a promotion, and already working in construction, we offer the Site Supervision Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS).  It is for those interested in taking a supervisory role – it covers risk assessment and communications to help you manage a team.  It’s standardised training for all construction managers, accepted all over the UK.

Visit our Training page to explore the range of courses currently scheduled.

RESOURCES

Office of National Statistics https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/constructionindustry/bulletins/constructionoutputingreatbritain/june2021newordersandconstructionoutputpriceindicesapriltojune2021

Building
https://www.building.co.uk/focus/so-much-work-to-do-so-few-workers-to-do-it/5112210.article

Federation of Master Builders
https://www.fmb.org.uk/resource/shortages-of-materials-and-skills-are-holding-builders-back.html

REC

https://www.rec.uk.com/our-view/news/press-releases/jobsoutlook-employers-intentions-hire-stay-high-suggesting-shortages-will-persist
https://www.rec.uk.com/our-view/news/press-releases/record-rise-starting-salaries-candidate-availability-falls-sharply

Construction Online
https://www.constructionline.co.uk/insights/blog/bridging-the-gap-how-can-uk-construction-survive-a-skills-shortage/