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Skills network spells out coming staff voids

NEWS - Hundreds of thousands more workers will be needed over the next four years

CONSTRUCTION companies need to find more than 36,000 new white collar workers every year to cope with a predicted work boom between now and 2010.

The figure is contained in the Construction Skills Network report 2006 published on Monday. It highlights how the industry needs 348,000 more employees during the next four years.

Traditional site trades are still in short supply at the moment but the report identifies a growing problem due to a lack of managers, clerical staff, architects, engineers and other design and technical professionals. These account for nearly half the required numbers.

The report states: 'In total, the number of white collar workers the industry needs to recruit every year to 2010 is forecast to be over 36,400 ? almost 50 per cent of the annual workforce requirement.' Experts at the Construction Skills Network ? one of the Government sponsored sector skills councils ? expect workloads in the industry to rise 12.7 per cent by 2010. They have identified how many workers are needed in each trade and profession and where the employment hotspots will be.

Sheila Hoile, skills strategy director at CITB-ConstructionSkills, said: 'This provides construction with its first truly authoritative basis for planning recruitment strategies, education and training mechanisms and funding delivery.

'For contractors and consultants, the data can be used to inform what type of building they should be designing and constructing for the client, and how best to avoid high labour costs.' Highest growth rates are predicted to shift from the north to the south and east as major schemes at Kings Cross, Shellhaven and Felixstowe and Harwich progress.

Forecasters at the network are playing down the impact of the Olympic building programme, which they say will account for only 0.2 per cent of the UK's total construction workforce up to 2010.

They also believe that during the next four years private output growth will exceed publicly funded construction.

Geoffrey Goddard, chairman of refurbishment specialist Lengard, said: 'I am in great favour of drawing on all pools of available labour needed to sustain a healthy and vibrant future for our industry. The influx of eastern European construction operatives over the past few years has been a boon to the industry and we must now turn our attentions to the intense shortage of white collar workers that faces us.'

See Agenda, page 12