UK's recovery at risk of severe brickie shortage

Michael Bow
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The UK is desperately short of skilled bricklayers (Source: Getty)

Today brings news of one of the more esoteric downsides of the UK's surging recovery - a perilous shortage of bricklayers in the UK.

A new study out today by the Construction Products Association shows the growing skills supply shortage driven by the UK’s increase in new house building, which is bouncing back from an historic low.

Between January and March more than 60 per cent of UK construction firms said they had trouble finding a bricklayer to employ – compared to about 40 per cent at the end of last year. Incredibly, just one in ten said they had difficulty finding a brickie during the first quarter of 2013.

This could be dismissed as a consequence of the construction downturn from 2006 onwards, when 400,000 people lost their jobs in the industry over a five-year period during the financial crisis. But this graph suggests a more complicated picture.

While plasterers and carpenters have been relatively easy to procure, bricklayers have become a much scarcer commodity. Part of the reason for this is bricklaying's inextricable link to new house building. Plastering and carpentry are often more versatile trades than bricklaying, with application to other area like shopfitting and home decorating.

Thousands of bricklayers walked away from the construction trade during and after the financial crisis, and the figures suggest they have stayed away. With new housebuilding surging and their skills in strong demand, the UK needs to see more ex-brickies picking up their trowels once again.