Skills shortages hit more than half of mid-sized UK firms

Apprentice Working at Forster Skills AcademySkills shortages are holding back more than half of the UK’s medium-sized construction firms as demand in the sector continues to surge, new research suggests.

Some 53 per cent of mid-sized businesses said the lack of trained staff was impacting on their ability to take on work, according to the survey from insurance group Zurich.

But more than 65 per cent of construction bosses who took part in the survey felt positive about the state of their order books, saying tender volumes were continuing to rise.

There is however continued pressure to find staff with the right skill sets with bricklayers and carpenters cited as being particularly in demand.

Among the strategies being used to tackle the talent shortage, apprenticeships are the most common.

Some 35 per cent of firms polled have in place on-the-job training schemes.

Many other businesses – around 33 per cent – are training existing staff rather than recruiting externally.

Some 35 per cent have turned to other forms of training, including initiatives run in partnership with local colleges.

The poll, for which 200 medium-sized building firms were contacted, suggests the issue could become more serious unless action is taken across the industry.

More than half – 52 per cent – of firms said they expect skills shortages to become a greater concern over the next five years.

Yet businesses are showing no signs of reducing their staff commitments, as just 6 per cent expect to take on fewer workers over the coming months and years.

In contrast, 28 per cent say they intend to employ staff directly in 2015 instead of subcontracting.

And a further 23 per cent of business leaders thought that skills shortages were already showing signs of easing.

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