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Eastern Europeans plug skills shortage

Migration from new EU countries helps fill jobs as workload rises in first quarter

THE ARRIVAL of eastern European workers into the UK has seen skills shortages drop to their lowest level for two years.

Figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors show that rising workloads are not being hampered by a lack of workers because of immigration from countries such as Poland and the Czech Republic.

Only 38 per cent of chartered surveyors quizzed reported problems in recruiting trades people compared to a high of 45 per cent in 2003.

Head of RICS Policy, Europe, Jill Craig said: 'Now it is much easier for migrant EU workers to make their way across borders.

Construction companies are happy that unskilled site jobs are being filled by foreign workers but are worried that shortages still exist among skilled trades and the professions.'

Stirling-based Ogilvie Construction director Donald MacDonald said: 'We are now seeing operatives arriving from eastern Europe to supplement the existing labour force.

'But it may be some time before numbers and quality are sufficient to see a significant reduction in the skills shortage.'

Ms Craig said: 'At the labour level the system is working well but this has yet to penetrate professional skills.'

Overall 18 per cent more of chartered quantity surveyors reported increasing workloads.

And a survey by the Construction Products Association also pointed to a rise in work. Its new construction activity barometer showed a buoyant start to 2005.

CPA economics director Alan Wilen said: 'We saw a sustained increase in sales volumes during the first quarter of 2005 compared with a year ago, with the barometer index at 55, firmly above the 50 no-change mark.

'Light-side manufacturers have seen the strongest sales growth, with an index rating of 70, benefiting from increased housing RM&I and Government investment in health and education.'