The results from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) ‘State of Trade Survey’ show that more than two thirds (68%) of those running small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms struggle to hire bricklayers and 64% struggle to hire carpenters and joiners. These are the highest figures since 2008 and are mostly to blame the construction skills shortages.
Other results show that the difficulties to hire plumbers and electricians (48%), plasterers (46%), and floorers (30%), also reached record highs. The workloads in SME grew at a slower rate than in 2017 and the firms building new homes had a negative net balance for the first time since 2013. 87% of builders believe that material prices will rise in the next six months; however, nearly two thirds expect salaries and wages to increase as well.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, argues that these skills shortages will lead to the question of “who will build the new homes and infrastructure projects the Government is crying out for”. The new target for home developments every year is 300,000 for England only, but if the workload keeps decreasing there would not be sufficient personnel to build those houses.
“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% in just three months which points to a rapid worsening of an already dire situation. What’s more, nearly as many are facing difficulties hiring carpenters and joiners. These figures are the highest we’ve noted since records began a decade ago. As a result, the wages for these increasingly scarce skilled tradespeople continue to rise sharply; that’s a simple consequence of supply and demand. This, coupled with the fact that small construction firms continue to face significant material price increases, will inevitably squeeze their margins and put a brake on growth,” said Berry.
There is also the question of what will happen after the Brexit and the Prime Minister must ensure that the immigration system that will replace the free movement of people will be capable to deliver the needs of these two key sectors: construction and house building.