Opportunities continue to exist North of the Border particularly in Scotland’s largest two cities – Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The latest Report on Jobs from the Bank of Scotland shows that demand for temporary construction contractors rose for the sixth month running in May with contractors the second highest demanded worker in the country after IT staff.
Figures from Glenigan show the top 30 projects in Edinburgh and Glasgow yet to have a contracts awarded are worth £5.3 billion, which includes Scotland’s largest project, the £2.34bn new Forth Road Crossing.
The two cities are experiencing an interlinked boost in fortunes symbolised by Scotland’s single largest rail improvement programme ever, the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvements Programme (EGIP).
Work began on the Network Rail funded £1bn scheme in March this year which will see journey times between the two cities cut to 35 minutes with the number of services increased from six to 13 per hour.
Glasgow has 19 of the top 30 projects with the 2014 Commonwealth Games responsible for five of those.
Edinburgh has the Forth Road Bridge for which two consortiums have been invited to tender for the contract to build the bridge.
Vinci Construction Grands Projets, Balfour Beatty, Bam Nuttall and Morgan Est have formed the Forthspan consortium.
They are up against the The Forth Crossing Constructors made up of Dragados, Hochtief, American Bridge International and Morrison Construction.
The two teams are currently going through a tendering process and a decision on the contract is expected next Spring.
Working in Scotland
As with all the major projects North of the Border the new Forth bridge presents an opportunity for firms from all over the UK to win work in the victorious consortium’s supply chain.
But contractors are being reminded that Scotland shouldn’t be treated as just another UK region – it has its own Parliament and ultimately destiny of its own infrastructure development.
Scottish Building Federation chief executive Michael Levack says building firms should do what they can to demonstrate their local knowledge to prospective clients by offering relevant case studies and making sure they are visible in the communities where they work.
He adds: “This is particularly important in the more sparsely populated areas of Scotland, where the local economy’s reliance on the construction sector is substantial not least in terms of supporting jobs and apprenticeship opportunities in the locality.”
Mr Levack warns that firms who have not previously worked in Scotland, but are looking to give themselves a foot in the door in order to win future work, should avoid the temptation in the current climate to go chasing work with suicide tenders.
The public sector is under considerable pressure to drive down the cost of delivering new construction projects and due to the considerable downturn in private sector construction, competition for public tenders is increasingly fierce.
“Firms need to enter into new public tenders with their eyes open and be realistic about pricing new jobs,” says Mr Levack. “The pressure to submit ‘suicidal’ tenders is increasing but must be resisted.”
The Scottish Government is forecasting that the transition to a low carbon economy could create as many as 60,000 new jobs in Scotland between now and 2020.
Many of these new jobs can be attributed to the construction sector, with major infrastructure needed to support the emerging renewable energy generation industry as well as a concerted drive to improve the energy efficiency of the built environment.
Given the high level of political priority attached to this agenda, there is likely to be continuing Scottish parliamentary support for the development of low carbon skills.
The Scottish Government says that building firms should take advantage of every available opportunity to enhance their workforce skills so they can take full advantage of the associated opportunities to secure new work.
Mr Levack adds: “When competition is this tough, the firms who succeed will be those prepared to adapt their business to suit the current needs of the market.
“For instance, as budgets for new construction projects continue to be squeezed, an upsurge in repair and maintenance work is likely and could sustain many building firms, provided their workers are suitably skilled.”