Jobs in demand

Skills shortage hits booming construction sector

First tram lines at Ocean Terminal

Work on the Edinburgh tram line is creating jobs

A skills shortage is sweeping through the UK construction sector just as the industry needs to create thousands of jobs to cope with a strong rebound from the pandemic.

A surge in demand for workers is being triggered by £33 billion of infrastructure investment planning and capital spending in Scotland.

Onshore and offshore wind farms, the Edinburgh tram extension, a multi-billion-pound water investment programme, and new private housing schemes are among the schemes driving demand for workers in Scotland.

Planned investment in Scotland over the next five years includes £5bn for city and regional growth, £30 million for the National Islands Plan, £1.6bn to decarbonise heat in buildings, and £2.8bn to deliver more affordable and social homes.

A report from recruitment firm Hays Scotland says permanent job registrations in the construction and property sector in Scotland have increased by 59% in the last 12 weeks, compared to the prior 12-week period.

Temporary job registrations have increased by more than 42% in the same period.

Claire Sheerin, director of Hays construction and property in Scotland, said: “The construction industry in Scotland makes up 12% of Scotland’s companies.

“The demand we’re seeing is in line with or, in many areas, ahead of pre-pandemic levels, leading to confidence about the future of this sector for 2021 and beyond.

“However, as a result, we’re witnessing skills shortages across a broad spectrum of construction jobs notably time-served joiners, quantity surveyors, electricians and skilled trades. Civil engineers and landscape architects are also in demand following the investment in civil infrastructure projects.”

“This surge in demand coupled with shortages, means that higher rates are being paid to attract trades in short supply and employers are in competition to fulfil their staffing requirements to keep projects on track. 

“Many clients are struggling to attract the level of skill they require for their projects and are thinking about how they can upskill or retrain others,” said Ms Sheerin. “Retraining will feature highly in the future of Scotland’s construction sector, but it’s certainly not a short-term fix.”

Research from Hays shows that close to a quarter (22%) of employers in Scotland say they do not have access to the right skills to enable them to meet organisational objectives. 

Almost half (45%) of employers in Scotland said the biggest barrier to finding people with the right skills was a shortage of suitable applicants, followed by 43% who said competition from other employers.

Another report from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) says 26,250 extra jobs will be required over the next four years, boosting Scotland’s construction workforce from 226,100 at the end of 2020 to to 241,800 by the end of 2025.

Ian Hughes, CITB engagement director for Scotland, said: “Scottish construction’s return to solid growth with new job opportunities shows the fortitude and adaptability of the sector through unprecedented times.

“CITB is supporting construction and working with the Scottish Government and further education providers to meet the skills needs ahead, particularly regarding the challenges of ‘net zero’, building safety and digital technologies.”

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