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Britain Faces Worst Construction Expertise Shortage in Almost 20 Years

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The UK’s construction industry is facing its greatest skills crisis since 1998, a survey released today by the RoyalInstitution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has revealed.

The latest RICS UK Construction Survey shows that the country’s skills shortage has reached its highest levels since the survey was launched 18 years ago, with bricklayers and quantity surveyors in shortest supply. Over half of respondents (53%) reported difficulty sourcing labour, with 71% saying they had particular difficulty sourcing bricklayers and 64% highlighting a shortage of quantity surveyors.

During the same period in 2011, just 1% of respondents were struggling to find bricklayers and only 15% noted a shortage of quantity surveyors.

In addition to labour supply, 69% of firms said that financial constraints, such as access to credit, were among the biggest constraints to growth, while 60% said that regulatory and planning issues were potent constraints.

However, despite these challenges, the survey shows significant areas of growth, with the number of new construction projects increasing, particularly in private
housing and commercial sectors. While official figures (which are often subject to revision) highlighted a slight contraction in output over the three months to August, a substantial proportion of respondents to the RICS reported an increase in their workloads (net balance +39%), with 29% of firms saying that they were operating at full capacity.

The private housing and commercial sectors continue to lead the growth in workloads with net balances of 47% and 46% respectively reporting an increase. However, momentum was least firm in the public sector with net balances of 12% and 21% reporting growth in workloads in the housing and non-housing segments respectively.

Meanwhile, in the infrastructure sector, growth accelerated somewhat with a balance of 34% seeing workloads rise, up from 25% last quarter.

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