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Housebuilders to hire up to 10,000

As many as 10,000 workers could be re-recruited by housebuilders this year with several big firms revealing plans to increase their direct labour forces as they ramp up production.

Five major housebuilders - Bellway, Barratt, Redrow, Galliford Try and Persimmon - all indicated to Construction News this week that they were looking to make significant increases to their workforces this year.

Employee numbers could rise by about 15 per cent in 2010, with the Home Builders’ Federation estimating that there are currently about 60,000 people directly employed in housing construction.

Industry experts suggested the recruitment drive could create a further 30,000 subcontractor jobs, with an average of three supply chain jobs created with every direct labour appointment.

The recruitment drive underpins the recovery for the battered housebuilding sector, which the HBF believes has lost in excess of 100,000 jobs during the credit crunch and resulting recession.

Newcastle-based housing giant Bellway said it would be re-starting work on several sites that had been mothballed, as well as opening 12 new sites.

Chief executive John Watson said: “We employ about 2,000 to 2,500 staff. We will be taking on another 500 employees during 2010 as we open more sites.

“On top of that, we always work on a simple rule of thumb that for every direct employee taken on, at least a further three to four external workers will be appointed.”

Mr Watson said that he would like to reintroduce apprenticeships as there were “not enough people going into the trades”.

Barratt Developments will also be increasing the number of directly employed staff in its southern division from 675 to 750 by June as part of a drive to increase production in London.

Chief executive Mark Clare said: “Following a strong recovery in the London housing market, Barratt is preparing to start on eight major sites in the next six months, which will in due course see more than 3,700 homes built in the capital.”

Flintshire-based housebuilder Redrow said it had already hired 100 workers over the past eight months. The company now has 760 employees. The housebuilder said it was aiming for a 25 per cent uplift in staff numbers from its trough last spring.

Galliford Try said it wanted to increase staff numbers by as much as 15 per cent during 2010. Managing director of the group’s housebuilding division Ian Baker said: “Inevitably we had to let some people go but we’ve already re-recruited several and will continue to do so. I’d tentatively say that our total staff numbers at the end of this year will be about 10 to 15 per cent higher than now.”

He said the company was looking to recruit from a wide pool. “We don’t want to limit ourselves to just housebuilding. Some of the skills that we need are transferable - from construction, manufacturing or completely
unassociated sectors which are still experiencing a downturn,” Mr Baker said.

Persimmon said it was also starting to hire staff again after setting a target to build 10,000 homes in 2010, up from 8,976 in 2009.

Construction Products Association economic policy development director Noble Francis said the housebuilding
sector had “absolutely turned the corner, but it has turned from a very, very low base”.

Housing starts are expected to increase by double digits this year. The major risk to the sector is loss of willingness to lend by the banks, which has driven the revival, Mr Francis said.


Click here to read Rhiannon Hoyle’s blog on the housing market and other key issues