Dearth of skilled workers is holding back our growth says construction industry

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Skills shortages threaten growth in the construction sector despite current business conditions reaching the best level since the EU referendum, according to a new survey of the industry.

More than half of respondents cited a shortage of quality workers as a key impediment to growth, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

While fear of a shortage of lower-skilled workers remains a key concern, the survey also showed a dearth of potential employees with more training, such as quantity surveyors and bricklayers.

Read more: New orders drive growth surprise for UK construction despite gloomy outlook

More than two-thirds of respondents said they are concerned about the quality of available workers.

Companies across the UK economy have reported skills shortages in recent months, particularly in higher-skilled roles.

Economists point to a tight UK labour market. The unemployment rate in the UK remained at an 11-year low of 4.7 per cent in February, while the proportion of Britons in work reached 74.6 per cent at the end of last year, its highest level on record.

However, despite the skills shortage fears the balance of firms reporting an increase in workloads in the first quarter jumped from 18 per cent to 27 per cent.

Read more: Time to move jobs? Employers up pay offers as skills shortage fears mount

Activity in the sector dipped sharply in the aftermath of the Brexit vote in the second quarter of 2016 as projects were put on hold, but workloads have since recovered to levels last seen at the start of last year.

Jeff Matsu, Rics senior economist, said: “The mood music in the construction sector has improved in line with the better tone to macro data more generally. However the survey does highlight some key challenges that need to be addressed if government’s ambitious plans for housing and infrastructure, in particular, are to be met.

“Access to finance, alongside planning and skill shortages, both quality and quantity, remain big obstacles to delivery and though some plans are in place to address these issues, it remains to be seen whether they are sufficient to make a meaningful impact.”

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