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The skill is gone

Even to a simple wordsmith like me, the concept of supply and demand is pretty straightforward: when something is scarce, it costs more.

So the fact that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has found that the absence of skilled construction workers has pushed wage inflation to three times the national average is as revelatory the bathroom habits of bears.

But that doesn’t for a second mean the industry shouldn’t be alarmed.

According to RICS, the lack of skilled workers will threaten some of our most important infrastructure projects, while at the same time rendering the government’s target of building a million homes by 2020 about as realistic as David Haye’s heavyweight world title ambitions.

Of course, it’s good news for the brickies, plasterers and surveyors whose skills are going to be more in demand than ever, but as concerns over capacity in the sector in general mount, they might be the only ones celebrating.

And it must be galling for firms struggling to find - or afford - the resources needed to take on jobs that more than 600,000 under-24s are still out of work.

Yes, unemployment is falling, but that is still a lot of young people whose energies and enthusiasm could be directed to help us build the housing and infrastructure that will support generations to come.

But as RICS future talent director Sally Speed says: “Apprenticeships alone will not be enough”, with the burden needing to be shared by schools, colleges and employers, as well as government.

It’s a challenge to everyone with skin in the game: come up with a solution now or 2016 could be the year when the skills crisis really blows up.

The bank that likes to say ‘PRS’

RBS has made a major move into the private rented sector by announcing £1bn of support for projects. Could this be the start of the long-awaited PRS gold rush?

On the river

Features editor Daniel Kemp visits Nottingham to see how Willmott Dixon is helping to transform the city’s Trent Basin.


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