Scottish construction bosses ‘cautiously optimistic’ over future prospects


EMPLOYERS in the Scottish construction sector are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about future prospects for the industry as 42% expect to take on more workers over the next three years.

However, the reduction in industry employment experienced in recent years combined with a steadily ageing workforce will continue to pose challenges as the industry recovers.

These are some of the key conclusions drawn from the latest Scottish Construction Monitor, a quarterly survey of the membership of leading trade body the Scottish Building Federation. The latest survey shows industry confidence has fallen by 11 points compared to the second quarter of 2014 but remains positive overall at PLUS 11.

The latest rating represents the fifth consecutive quarter where overall confidence within the Scottish construction industry has been rated positive.

Based on the latest survey results, SBF estimates that the average age of workers employed in the Scottish construction sector is currently 40. 29% of employers responding to the survey said the average age of workers they employ has risen over the past three years compared to 24% who said the average age of their workforce has gone down during that time. On average, 17% of workers leaving an employer over the last three years were said to have done so in order to retire while a further 8% were said to have left due to ill health.

45% of employers reported a reduction in the size of their workforce during the past three years compared to 37% who said the size of their workforce has increased during that time. Conversely, only 5% of employers expect the size of their workforce to reduce during the next three years, whereas 42% expect to increase the number of people they employ and the remaining 53% expect the size of their workforce to remain constant during that time.

Commenting on the survey results, Scottish Building Federation Managing Director Vaughan Hart said, “We’ve seen a decline in confidence this quarter but employers continue to be optimistic about future prospects for their business overall. I think general uncertainty created by the referendum may have had a dampening effect on confidence this quarter. I would expect to see industry confidence rebound next quarter now that the referendum has taken place.

“These survey results confirm the general decline in employment the industry has experienced over the past three years. More encouragingly, they point to growing expectations that employment will begin to recover over the next three years.

“At the same time, there’s evidence that Scotland’s construction workforce is ageing. With apprentice numbers down significantly on where they were prior to the recession, this situation is entirely understandable. But it has to be a cause for concern as we seek to re-build capacity. Attracting new blood back into the industry must be an absolute priority. Proactively managing occupational health is equally important so a greater percentage of the workforce is able to keep working in the industry in good health until retirement age.”