Lack of experienced trades leading to SME woes

The latest State of Trade Survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has discovered that 68% of construction Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are struggling to find bricklayers, while 63% can’t find carpenters and joiners. This skills shortage is at an industry record high, according to their research.

These issues are extending to other trades as well, with 48% reporting problems hiring plumbers and electricians, 46% saying they can’t find plasterers and 30% having trouble finding floorers.

This issue appears to be resulting in a slowdown in the housebuilding industry with fewer companies predicting rising workloads in the next quarter. In addition, many builders believe that the costs of raw materials will rise in the coming months and nearly two-thirds believe that the wages of construction workers will increase over the next 6 months.

Brian Berry, the Chief Executive of the FMB has pointed out that the skills shortage problem is skyrocketing and the ambitious target set by the government of 300,000 homes each year in England may be at stake. He says that the figures they are seeing are the worst the FMB has ever reported on and the result is increased wages due to the inevitable supply and demand inequality, higher construction costs (possibly due to increased materials costs caused by the weaker pound) and a squeeze on margins.

Berry says that future changes to immigration could further exacerbate the problem and the government needs to address the issue by making pledges about sensible immigration policy going forward.

On the plus side, Berry does point out that those construction workers hit by the closure of Carillion will have little problem finding work as the industry is crying out for skilled tradespeople of all types.