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Brexit 'making problem worse'

Skills crisis hits third of house builders

Fountainbridge homes

Homes are planned, such as these alongside Edinburgh’s canal, but skilled labour is a problem

Almost a third of housebuilders (31%) claim they are suffering a skills shortage with more than a quarter (29%) saying they have trouble recruiting skilled workers where they operate. 

Firms blamed Brexit for exacerbating the skills shortage, with half (50%) stating that it was making recruitment harder for specific roles while a quarter (26%) said that access to EU labour is a key challenge for their business. 

The report from Bank of Scotland found almost seven in ten firms (69%) are now investing in staff training, and half (51%) are setting up apprenticeship programmes. 

The findings reveal that the industry is investing in new building techniques to improve efficiency, ease of build, better construction standards and in some areas increased margins.

As a result, firms’ investment in new building techniques has increased year on year from 20% of current annual turnover to 24% over five years. 

Innovation is also supporting the delivery of sustainable homes with 82% of firms saying they are more focused on this issue than ever before.

The research found that optimism about the future of the industry remains steady and growth ambitions strong.

However, fewer jobs are being created. Firms said they plan to create more than 139,000 jobs in the next five years, which equates to more than 40,000 fewer jobs in the pipeline than there were a year ago.

Jane Clark-Hutchison, regional director, Bank of Scotland said: “The housebuilding industry remains upbeat despite issues that have weighed down the sector for some time including Brexit uncertainty which is contributing to a skills shortage and inflating the cost of raw materials.

“It is reassuring to see the sector confronting these challenges head on by investing and planning for business growth, prioritising staff training and looking at more innovative new building techniques. This has the potential to boost productivity and, more importantly, increase the pipeline of new homes that the nation badly needs.”

Nicola Barclay, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, said: “Home builders north of the border operate in a significantly different policy context given the devolved nature of housing but the same key challenges, including those in relation to skills, generally apply across the UK. 

“Of particular note, the research highlights the continued importance of Help to Buy and a welcome improvement in the position for SMEs in accessing business finance, two specific areas of policy that remain key to increasing housing delivery.”

Barratt Developments, which includes both the Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes brands, has announced plans to develop 12 sites in Scotland this year and build 2,280 homes.  

New developments includ Brae of Yetts in Kirkintilloch, Preston Square in Prestonpans and The Fairways in Drumpellier.

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