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Construction skills in demand, finds survey


A career as a plumber, bricklayer or carpenter is looking increasingly attractive. While other sectors of the UK economy such as financial services and manufacturing are suffering badly, the last quarter of 2002 saw the biggest increase in labour shortages since the RICS construction survey started in 1996. 56 per cent of surveyors reported recruitment difficulties ‘on the tools’ during quarter four, up from 39 per cent in quarter three. Shortages of bricklayers are most acute, followed by plumbers and plasterers.

Total construction workloads grew in the final quarter 2002, with public housing recording its largest quarterly increase. Private housing levels remained firm with commercial building rebounding modestly after a slight decline in the previous quarter. Surveyors in Scotland reported the strongest rises in workloads. However, industrial building remained flat, reflecting the continued recession in the manufacturing industry.

Chartered surveyors are often the first to notice trends in the construction industry due to their early involvement in building projects.

Growth in public work and infrastructure projects accounts for much of the sector’s current vigour and higher levels of public investment are due to continue for some time. But surveyors’ profit expectations for the first quarter of 2003 are fairly muted, reflecting concern over higher labour costs.

Paywise, an average construction weekly wage of £411, compares favourably with a national average of £368 across all industries – 12 per cent higher. Recent increases in construction pay also outstrip other sectors. Construction wages rose by per cent from April 2001-2, compared to a national average of 4.4 per cent. With acute rises in the scarcity of skilled labour it is expected that these above average wage increases will continue.

RICS chief executive Louis Armstrong said: "In the current climate a career in construction is looking more and more attractive. RICS is working hard to ensure that opportunities and working arrangements within the sector continue to improve. One way of doing this is increasing the opportunity for career progression within the industry. The new NVQ route to professional qualification, provides a way for skilled workers to graduate from manual trades and enter the surveying profession. Improving health and safety and attracting more women into the sector are also active campaigns being undertaken by RICS in 2003."


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