Construction firms are struggling to find skilled tradespeople such as bricklayers, according to new research, as private commercial workloads improve.
The latest data from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) shows that the building industry continued to benefit from rising workloads during the closing stages of 2014.
A net balance of 39% of the respondents to the group’s UK Construction Market Survey reported that overall workloads improved over the final three months of last year.
In terms of specific sub-sectors, a net balance of 52% said commercial workloads went up, while respective balances of 45% and 40% were recorded in relation to private housing and industrial work.
However, rising workloads appear to be creating wider skill gaps in certain areas of the building trade.
Overall, 48% of the respondents to the survey said they have recently seen labour shortages appear in all the main trades - a record high.
Roughly 60% of those queried said they fear that material shortages, skills shortages or financial constraints could hold back the growth of the construction sector in the coming months.
Focusing on the issue of labour shortages, the Rics study said that bricklayers and quantity surveyors are proving particularly hard to source at present.
All of the sub-sectors within the construction industry have had to contend with skills shortages since it began to show signs of recovery in the summer of 2013, the group added.
Looking to the future, the report suggested that meeting labour requirements is one practical challenge which will need to be addressed.
Although talent gaps are causing headaches for some building companies, the Rics report said firms remain confident about their prospects.
It noted that 75% more respondents are now hopeful that their workloads will rise in the months ahead.
In terms of employment, 55% more of those questioned said they hope to see improvements in this area as well.
Over the course of this year, a 3.4% improvement in workloads is now expected, while the number of construction job opportunities is predicted to improve by 3%.
One source of concern among building firms relates to the upcoming general election in May.
The Rics report suggested that efforts will need to be made to shore up the confidence of the construction industry, in order to support long-term growth.
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