A number of SMEs have reported an increase in their workloads during Q1 2015, as material constraints continue to place pressure on the firms, according to the Federation of Master Builders.
Over 400 firms responded to the organisation’s latest State of Trade Survey for Q1 2015, which showed that workloads for the period grew to 39 per cent from 35 per cent in Q4 2014.
In private housebuilding, 32 per cent of firms reported higher workloads, up from 23 per cent in the previous quarter.
Regionally, workloads were also up across all four UK nations, with Northern Ireland reporting the highest rise – a 17 percentage point increase in workload compared with the previous quarter.
But 62 per cent of firms reported that they were waiting for up to two months for new brick orders, with almost 25 per cent waiting for up to four months.
An additional 16 per cent of firms said they were waiting between six to eight months.
Half of firms said they were experiencing difficulties recruiting bricklayers, while over 40 per cent said they were struggling to hire carpenters and joiners.
SME employment also saw an increase for the fifth consecutive quarter; the proportion of firms reporting an increase in workforce grew to 26 per cent, from 23 per cent in the previous quarter.
However, the total number of employment enquiries for the period remained positive, for the eighth consecutive quarter.
Seventeen per cent of firms saw lower levels of enquiries, compared to 29 per cent in Q4 2014, while more respondents saw a higher level of enquiries - this rose to 46 per cent from 30 per cent over the same period.
FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “In terms of skills, the ever-growing lack of bricklayers is causing concern.
“Compared to this time one year ago, more than twice the firms are reporting difficulties recruiting these tradespeople.
“In the short term, many SME housebuilders may have to rely on migrant labour.
“To ensure we have an ample supply of skilled workers in the future, the next government must ensure it sets the right framework in terms of apprenticeship funding and apprenticeship standards. Also more construction firms – large and small – need to willingly engage with training.”