Contractors having ‘sleepless nights’ over labour and materials costs

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SKILLS shortages and rising costs are causing building services contractors to have ‘sleepless nights’, new research has revealed.

A survey conducted with members of the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) highlighted challenges around increasing labour and material costs, growing lead times, a shortage of equipment, and delivery delays.

Many respondents expect the situation to get worse before it gets better, although 80% said they expected to see ‘growing or stable turnover levels’ through to the end of the year.

The survey, carried out in partnership with the Electrical Contractors Association (ECA), the Scottish Electrical Trade Body (SELECT) and the Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employer’s Federation (SNIPEF), revealed particular shortages of M&E engineers, pipe fitters, plumbers, and service technicians.

41% of respondents reported problems recruiting staff needed to keep projects going. 66% expected the situation to deteriorate during the current quarter and 13% expected the situation to remain the same. However, 32% said they expected to see some improvement before the end of the year.

BESA said one ‘fallout’ is that many businesses will employ fewer direct staff, agency workers and apprentices over the next six months.

“That is probably the most worrying message from the survey,” said Debbie Petford, BESA’s director of legal and commercial. “We already have a serious skills shortage across construction and related sectors like building engineering, but it seems some employers are reacting by pulling in their recruitment horns.

“This will only serve to build up longer term shortages. Without a large enough and suitably skilled workforce we will not be able to deliver on the government’s decarbonisation plans or keep the economic recovery on track. This is a global issue and I hope it will be high on the agenda at next month’s COP26 climate conference in Glasgow.”