Skills shortages remain despite new high for construction industry


AS 2014 draws to a close, confidence within the Scottish construction industry has reached a new high.

The latest survey shows industry confidence at a high of PLUS 26, up 15 points compared to the previous quarter.

These are some of the key findings of the latest Scottish Construction Monitor, a quarterly survey of the membership of leading trade body, the Scottish Building Federation.

The sixth consecutive quarter where overall confidence within the Scottish construction has been rated positive, this is the highest confidence rating recorded since the Construction Monitor began in 2008.

Yet, employers have highlighted critical shortages in a number of key trades and managerial positions. With specific skills shortages particularly acute in certain regions of the country, there have been calls for increased funding to help recruit and train more apprentices.

The survey asked industry employers a series of questions about skills shortages across individual trades and management roles. Respondents were asked to identify the region or regions where their business mainly operates to build a profile of skills requirements across the country.

Finding that carpentry and joinery sills were generally in short supply, with companies in the North East particularly affected, the survey also reported a shortage of bricklayers across Scotland as a whole. With distinct shortages of bricklayers in the Central and Fife regions, employers further highlighted a critical lack of wood machinists. Employers in all regions reported difficulties in recruiting stonemasons and plant operators.

At a managerial level, the survey identifies challenges across all regions in filling general construction supervisor and site manager roles. Employers in the Highlands and Islands report particular difficulties with recruiting project managers.

Overall, the highest number of skills shortages in the local construction sector has been reported in the Central and Fife region. Alternatively, companies in the Highlands and Islands are currently reporting the fewest shortages of any Scottish region.

Commenting on the results, Scottish Building Federation Managing Director, Vaughan Hart, said:

“With these new survey results, it’s great news that the Scottish industry is able to close 2014 on a new confidence high. That suggests that the industry’s recovery is now happening.  The flip side of that is that employers are encountering increasing difficulties in filling certain management roles and there are emerging skills shortages in certain trades. This seems to be particularly true of joinery and bricklaying trades.

“Our members are telling us that current levels of funding provided through Government and CITB grants to help employers recruit and train apprentices are insufficient. Given the growing skills shortages the industry is now facing, now is the time to review funding and to explore what additional support can be provided to boost training and recruitment. As an industry, we also need to be more proactive in promoting careers in construction as an excellent prospect for today’s school leavers.”