Workloads across London's construction sector grow despite concerns over skills shortages hampering growth

Rebecca Smith
A lack of quantity surveyors and other professionals has been cited as a problem across the capital
A lack of quantity surveyors and other professionals has been cited as a problem across the capital (Source: Getty)

London's chartered surveyors reported rising workloads for the third quarter of the year, though ongoing headaches from skills shortages continue.

According to the latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) construction and infrastructure market survey of 358 chartered surveyors, labour shortages are becoming more pronounced and proving a national problem, with many citing it as an impediment to growth.

Read more: No let-up in falling London house prices, says RICS

However, there has been a broadly steady pace of growth relative to the previous quarter, with a net balance of 22 per cent of surveyors saying their workloads had risen. Brexit-related uncertainties were flagged as weighing on investment decisions.

But despite uncertainties, a net balance of 38 per cent of London respondents said they expected activity to continue to rise, rather than fall, over the next year.

There are though, ongoing concerns with skills shortages, as 62 per cent of chartered surveyors said labour shortages were becoming a hindrance to growth, marking a rise on the average share of 40 per cent that cited it as a concern when the Rics data collection was started in 2012.

Respondents said they were suffering from a lack of quantity surveyors, as well as other professionals, while just under half said they were seeing a shortage of workers with specific trades. Amongst trade occupations, the recruitment of bricklayers remained "the perennial challenge", considerably ahead of both electricians and plumbers.

Research by the Open University in July found that difficulties recruiting the right people at the right time is costing firms £2.2bn a year, saying that 90 per cent of employers have encountered trouble finding people with the right skills over the past year.

The government has set out plans to try and improve the pipeline of talent for firms, and up the number of apprentices, with the introduction of an apprenticeship levy introduced earlier this year. But respondents said the effectiveness of workforce development schemes was far from clear, at present.

And under half of employers who currently hire apprentices view them as a long-term solution to their hiring needs.

Jeffrey Matsu, senior economist at Rics, said: "While activity in the sector has moderated, growth and growth expectations remain in positive territory."

Meanwhile, Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said the figures signalled "an overall brighter picture than the latest official numbers", but added that they highlighted "a worrying weakness of commercial construction".

"This sector is a key bellwether of business spending on fixed assets such as offices, retail space and factories and the subdued levels of activity underscores how uncertainty regarding the impact of Brexit on the economy appears to be holding back investment," he added.

Read more: Skills shortages are costing UK businesses £2bn a year

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