Skills crisis points to construction slump

Construction work is heavily dependent on economic performance, and most forecasts expect the economy to do well over the next five years

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The Independent Online

Thousands of building projects could grind to a halt by 2019 as a result of a mounting skills crisis in the construction industry, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) will warn today.

The organisation says that a skills shortage is getting worse and up to 27,000 building projects could be threatened over the next five years as a result.

Research among its members showed that four-fifths had problems recruiting because of a lack of qualified candidates, and that the dearth of skilled staff means that surveying firms are having to turn away paid work, putting building projects at risk.

The Rics research found that two in five (43 per cent) firms are turning down business opportunities thanks to staff shortages. On average they are passing up on five contracts per year. A further one in 10 surveyors (11 per cent)  say that they are expecting to have to start turning down work within the next four years for similar reasons.

That would mean more than half of the sector’s 10,000 businesses turning down 27,000 projects, according to the Rics’ calculations.

Construction work is heavily dependent on economic performance, and most forecasts expect the economy to do well over the next five years. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has projected annual GDP growth of more than 2.5 per cent over the next parliament, with the economy currently receiving an unexpected shot in the arm as a result of the collapse in world oil prices.

Rics is calling on member firms to support its work in bringing through a new generation of surveyors. Its campaign “Surveying the Future” aims to attract a more diverse workforce to the profession.

Alan Muse, a Rics director, said: “Surveyors play a pivotal role in the delivery of every construction project. Without surveyors, things don’t get built. That’s why our research is worrying: if so many firms are turning down work due to a lack of available talent, demand for skills will soon far outstrip the supply.

“For many companies, that time is already here, but the next few years look like a real tipping point – construction as an industry looks set to grow, but at this rate it’s very unlikely that we’ll have the capacity or the capability to fulfil planned projects.”

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