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Nearly half of SMEs struggle to hire bricklayers, joiners and carpenters - survey

The number of firms having difficulty recruiting carpenters has nearly doubled over the course of 2014, according to a survey from the Federation of Master Builders.

Bricklayers are also in short supply, according to the survey, with the proportion of firms finding themselves shorthanded rising from 27 per cent in Q4 2013, to 42 per cent in Q4 2014.

The percentage of firms having difficulty recruiting carpenters and joiners was up from 23 per cent to 44 per cent over the same period.

Over 35 per cent of firms were also having trouble hiring site managers, while a further 30 per cent faced difficulties hiring plasterers during Q4 2014.

Approximately 43 per cent of firms covered by the FMB’s State of Trade survey expected an increase in wage and salary costs over the next six months, up from 41 per cent in the last quarter.

The number of respondents looking to cut back on staff numbers grew to 13 per cent, up from 6 per cent in Q3.

This left the net balance of builders looking to increase their workforce at 11 per cent - the lowest level since Q4 2013.

In contrast, the net balance of specialists looking to increase their workforce over the next six months was up to 32 per cent - the highest levels seen since Q2 2007.

Commenting on the survey, FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “As the shock waves from the latest economic downturn continue to reverberate through the construction sector, concerns over diminished workloads have been replaced by concerns over skills shortages.

“Around 400,000 construction workers left the industry since the downturn hit in 2007 and many will never return.

“If you combine this with an increase in workloads as the economy recovers, all the signs point to the skills shortage getting worse before it gets better,” Mr Berry added.

Recent research by the CITB suggested that the industry will need an additional 223,450 jobs over the next five years to handle expected output growth to 2019.

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