More than two-thirds of small UK building firms forecast a jump in salaries and wages over the next six months as competition for skilled bricklayers intensifies.
Brickies are already able to command wages of up to £60,000 per year in London and around £45,000 a year in the north of England. However these salaries could be even higher in the future due to difficulties in hiring skilled staff, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said.
The trade body's quarterly State of Trade survey found that 53 per cent of its members anticipate increasing wages and salaries, up from 49 per cent previously. In contrast, just one per cent of firms forecast decreasing wages and salaries over the next six months, marginally down from two per cent.
This is despite signs of increasing activity in the first quarter of the year, with 33 per cent of its members reporting higher workloads and more than two-thirds of firms predicting a further pick-up in their workloads over the coming three months, despite uncertainty around the upcoming EU referendum.
“We need tens of thousands of new and returning construction workers to pick up the slack, or this growth among construction SMEs could so easily unravel. The results for the first three months of this year show consistent growth among small construction firms in almost all parts of the UK,” said Brian Berry, FMB chief executive.
According to the survey, the difficulties of recruiting skilled bricklayers is closely linked to the steady growth in private house building.
Govenment’s plans to address the skills shortage through the new Apprenticeship Levy – which will come into force next year – seem too far away for such a major issue demanding an immediate solution, Berry said.
“I have spoken to many small construction bosses who have major concerns about the impact that the new funding arrangements, which will come into effect alongside the levy, will have on their ability to hire an apprentice”.
“The government must work closely with the construction industry to ensure its new system is as easy to use as possible, or else we could see apprenticeship training by small firms nose dive at exactly the wrong time.”