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Where's the work? Construction jobs in 2014

Growth for the industry in 2014 has also brought growth to the salaries of those working within it. Which professions have benefited most? Will the trend continue into 2015

2014 has been the first year since 2010 to see three consecutive quarters of construction growth.

With the exception of a slight downward blip at the end of 2013, output has been growing since Q2 2013.

The figures for the final quarter are not yet out, but if that shows growth too then it will be the first year of continuous growth since 2006.

Strong growth

Employment has grown too since the start of 2013, according to the workforce jobs figures published by the Office for National Statistics

Consequently earnings have started to pick up in the industry.

The growth for average weekly earnings in construction has been far from stratospheric, ranging between 0.4 and 1.9 per cent since June. When bonuses and arrears are included, average weekly earnings rose from £553 to £565 between September 2013 and 2014.

But this average disguises much bigger rises in professions and regions where demand is high or the right people are harder to find.

Randstad construction, property and engineering managing director Owen Goodhead says in London, a temporary quantity surveyor would have earned an average of £275 a day just over a year ago, but this has since risen to £350.

Similarly, permanent senior QSs in the capital have seen their base pay rise by £10,000 to £20,000 from £55,000 to £65,000 a year ago and the pay of project managers has grown in a similar way.

Sparse markets

Mr Goodhead says there are shortages of construction workers of all kinds in the Midlands, which he describes as an “incredibly candidate-sparse marketplace”.

He says people in the region are moving jobs at all levels of seniority but those in greatest demand are what he calls the “lost graduates” who would have entered construction and civil engineering four or five years ago from degree courses such as quantity surveying or design.

“Deterred by the recession, the far smaller influx of these qualified professionals coming onto the jobs market in recent years is now causing real issues - right across the UK,” he says.

In the North-east, he says salaries have risen a few per cent but need to rise more so that the region can attract candidates.

He says: “The North-east has never traditionally needed as many civil engineers as other areas of the country, so the major projects across the A1 have caused a real bottleneck in demand. Unfortunately with companies still paying legacy salaries and rates of pay, there is little enticement for civils candidates to move into the roles from neighbouring geographies. An uplift of 5 per cent is required to attract this talent.”

Trade shortage

Hays Construction director Duncan Bullimore says the residential sector leads the way in London and the South-east, but there has been growth in construction across all parts of that region.

He says that salaries in the industry have been rising gradually for a while, but that he has also observed some areas of significant growth.

He says: “We have consistently seen a shortage of quantity surveyors of all levels, in addition to site managers and the well-documented shortages of bricklayers and mechanical and electrical trades.

“Construction industry output is likely to grow next year, with the high number of projects tendered so the shortage of these professionals will stretch the industry further.”

Beyond pay

Mr Bullimore has noticed employers and candidates thinking beyond pay too.

“Recently, we have seen that employers are investing in the training and professional development of their employees more than ever before, whether they are taking on apprentices or graduates and supporting their training in skill shortage areas,” he says.

“We have also seen that professional development is becoming more of a key consideration for employees when moving jobs, or indeed when they are choosing to stay.”

He adds that employers are also trying to retain temporary staff ahead of forthcoming assignments.

“There is a better continuity of jobs and the average tenure for temporary workers now is greater than it was 12 months ago. There is a ‘use them or lose them’ mentality that is becoming commonplace,” he says.

He thinks salary increases may slow a bit after the sharp increases seen in some cases over the past year.

But the general trend for salaries in 2014 has been upwards, something that will probably continue, particularly among those in-demand trades, into 2015.

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