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Skills shortage hitting growth in region’s construction sector

PUBLISHED: 11:02 31 July 2014

Robert Norman Construction in Framlingham  received a  Brick Award for Long Farm, Reydon, in 2013 but it is currently grappling with the effects of a skills shortage in the construction industry.

Robert Norman Construction in Framlingham received a Brick Award for Long Farm, Reydon, in 2013 but it is currently grappling with the effects of a skills shortage in the construction industry.

Archant

A national skills shortage in the construction industry is hampering growth in East Anglia, the sector has warned.

Award-winning Framlingham construction firm, Robert Norman Construction, said the shortage, highlighted last week by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), meant it was struggling to find the extra staff it needed to cope with its fast-increasing workload.

In its latest market survey, RICS found skills shortage concerns have reached their highest level since 2008, with demand greatest for bricklayers and quantity surveyors.

Nationally, 59% of respondents reported a shortage of bricklayers, compared with just seven per cent in the second quarter of 2013.

Meanwhile, 54% said there was a shortage of quantity surveyors in the second quarter, up from 19% in the same period last year.

Half of those surveyed now say the skills shortage is an impediment to growth, compared with only seven per cent in quarter two of 2013. In East Anglia, statistics show workloads have risen at a record pace in quarter two of 2014 in comparison to quarter one of 2014.

Robert Norman Construction’s Bob Page said they were in the process of recruiting a couple of new team members, but were finding it increasingly difficult to find people with the right level of qualifications and experience. “We know that locally, building surveyors and quantity surveyors are in short supply and those who are currently in post are bearing a huge burden of massive growth in workloads yet no resources to manage it,” said Mr Page, the firm’s construction manager. “Part of the problem stems from the fact that during the recession, training and development was the first thing struck off the list by many companies in the sector, and now that we need those skills they just don’t exist. We are also starting to see the direct effects of the lack of emphasis on construction as a career by schools and colleges.

“What we need is for those who left the industry during the downturn to come back into the sector.”

The RICS figures are backed up by the Construction Industry Training Board, which has revealed that in the East of England the industry needs to attract 5,150 new recruits to meet demand and also attract 4,000 new apprentices.

Alan Muse, RICS director of Built Environment, said: “The upsurge in housing demand is creating pressure across an industry which failed to invest in attracting new talent or in the training of existing employees at the height of the downturn. The good news is that there is reason for optimism, with workloads, profits and employment all forecast to deliver growth over the next 12 months and it is now the responsibility of industry to invest in training and technology,” he added.

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