UK Construction Media

Construction wages increase amid skills shortage and Brexit fears

News   •   May 24, 2016 14:22 BST

Wages of construction workers have soared as the industry’s skill shortage continues to take hold and fears over the EU referendum remain.

A survey conducted by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation reports that bricklayers are able to earn up to £1,000 a week as building companies compete for workers to keep infrastructure and housebuilding schemes on target.

63% of recruitment agencies reported an increase in demand for temporary construction workers over the past 12 months. 69% claimed that a shortage of bricklayers, labourers and other tradesmen represents the first or second most substantial risk to their business.

The recruitment of bricklayers was reported by 43% of respondents as being especially difficult. Evidence from recruiters supplying London-based businesses noted an increase wages, with £15-25 an hour the current going rate.

Construction recruiters have forecast that a Brexit vote would only escalate the skills shortage within the industry. 59% said that a vote to leave the EU would make recruitment more difficult, while just 5% thought it would improve the issue.

The results of the poll follow the Office of National Statistics (ONS) release detailing the latest employment figures, which show a year-on-year increase in wages in the construction sector of 7.5% excluding bonuses.

The ONS also revealed that as of December last year, there were 2,238,000 jobs in construction, making up 6.6% of all employment.

The construction sector was the second largest employment sector in 2015, accounting for a quarter of job growth.

REC Chief Executive Kevin Green commented: “If you work in construction you can expect to be earning £34 a week more than last year, and our data indicates that some employers are increasing pay faster as the competition for skilled workers intensifies.

“Whilst this is great news for builders and tradesmen, there are hard questions that need to be asked about the sustainability of this trend. The UK is close to full employment and building firms are already struggling to find the people needed for major infrastructure projects. If Britain leaves the EU there’s no doubt that recruitment for some construction roles will become even more of a challenge.

“Whatever the outcome of the EU referendum we need to address deep-seated skills shortages. That means more apprenticeships, greater investment in skills development by employers, better careers guidance in schools, and more work experience opportunities so that young people are shown the potential benefits of a career in construction.”