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SMEs struggle to hire bricklayers, suggests survey

Words: Laura Edgar

Two-thirds of bosses at small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms are struggling to hire bricklayers and carpenters, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

According to the FMB’s State of Trade Survey, bosses said 68 per cent of construction SMEs are finding it difficult to hire bricklayers, while 63 per cent are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners.

The trade body said this is the highest figure since records began in 2008.

On hiring, the survey, which considers Q4 of 2017, also suggested:

  • 48 per cent of firms are struggling to hire plumbers and electricians.
  • 46 per cent are struggling to hire plasterers.
  • 30 per cent are struggling to hire floorers.

Construction SMEs grew at a slightly slower rate than in Q3 of 2017, but new enquiries and expected workloads slowed more sharply. Also, expected workloads among the firms building new homes showed a negative net balance for the first time since 2013.

There are concerns about materials, with 87 per cent of builders believing that material prices will rise in the next six months, up from 82 per cent in the previous quarter.

As a result of staff shortages, 61 per cent of construction SMEs expect salaries and wages to increase in the next six months.

Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB, said: “Skills shortages are skyrocketing and it begs the question, who will build the new homes and infrastructure projects the government is crying out for? The government has set itself an ambitious target to build 300,000 homes every year in England alone. More than two-thirds of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers, which is one of the key trades in the building industry. This has increased by nearly 10 per cent in just three months, which points to a rapid worsening of an already dire situation.”

He wants Prime Minister Theresa May to ensure that the immigration system that replaces the free movement of people can take account of the particular needs of key sectors such as construction and housebuilding following Brexit.

In the longer term for the UK, Berry said the government must continue to work with the industry to set the right framework in terms of T-Levels and apprenticeships, to make sure there is an ample supply of skilled workers in the future.

Image credit | iStock