Home office builder hit by skills shortage

From left, Smart Garden Offices' new owners Paul Sheppard, Sue Phillips and Matt Moss Picture: PAUL

Smart Garden Offices boss Matt Moss, right, pictured with fellow company owners Paul Sheppard and Sue Phillips, is facing a recruitment crisis - Credit: Paul Nixon

A fast-growing manufacturing company which makes garden offices is facing a recruitment headache after failing to find a suitable candidate for a key role.

While other businesses have been shedding staff through the coronavirus pandemic, SMART Garden Rooms, Offices & Studios in Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds, has been taking them on at a brisk rate.

A post-pandemic trend towards home working has prompted a roaring trade in garden rooms - but the sector is facing a skills shortage.

Bosses at the firm said they were surprised at how difficult it was proving to fill one well-paid post for a garden room installer.

The company - which has been trading since 2006 and a 45-strong workforce - has recruited nine new people for new roles since the summer of 2020 to try to keep up with demand.

The garden room installer role involves travelling widely to assemble, install and commission buildings.

Managing director Matt Moss said: "There is a real irony. We are a rapidly expanding manufacturer that is riding the boom in home working, but we are struggling to fill this vital role.

“We know that there is still something of a skills shortage in our sector, which is why we are offering a full and intensive training package for the candidate with the right core experience and potential. Given the level of unemployment at the moment due to Covid-19, it would be a great career change for an adaptable person.

"I’m aware that other manufacturers in the county and beyond are in a similar situation, which makes me think that the country’s recovery from the effects Covid-19 will be held back by a lack of suitably skilled labour.

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“Businesses, government and training providers need to be addressing these shortages now before they have a major impact not just on individual firms such as ours but on the whole economy."

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