The impact of a construction industry resurgence

More than a third of SME construction businesses are unable to recruit sufficient numbers of bricklayers to keep up with their workloads, according to a recent survey by the Federation of Master Builders.

We've noticed that this is not the only area of the market to currently be experiencing an increase in demand for talent - businesses across the country are struggling to find quantity surveyors, structural engineers, ground workers, project managers... there's an increase in demand across the board.

However, the reasons for these current high levels of demand are not only because there is more construction going on, but also because there are less people available to do it. We can trace the reason for this back to 2008, when the recession hit the construction industry harder than most other sectors, leading to a huge amount of layoffs and forcing a large percentage of builders to retrain in other professions.

It's now eight years after the industry crashed - and in those eight years, people forced out of building through redundancy and lack of job opportunities will not have been the only individuals to leave the market. Those towards the end of their career might have taken early retirement and there are an estimated 410,000 construction workers who will reach retirement age within five to ten years. The issue here is that there just aren't enough people to replace them.

Given the industry has developed a poor reputation for employability over the past few years, there are fewer people looking to get in at the ground level. With more people leaving the industry than joining it, this imbalance will drive up the price of the people who have managed to remain in the market - at least until these increased rates lead to more people looking to get into building, thus populating the market once again and making it more stable. That is, however, six to seven years away from becoming reality at the absolute minimum.

Whilst this is all good news for those that remain in the market, it's less so for the companies that seek to hire them. As is always the case in the open recruitment market, the companies that can afford to pay above the odds will stand the best chance of acquiring the talent they need. Companies that cannot compete on money will have to find other ways in which to attract workers - be it through offering longer term contracts to afford the jobseeker added security or perhaps by allowing flexitime working for a better work/life balance.

A worrying reality is that, with the increased demands of workers not being achievable within current budgets, some companies might attempt to cut corners by offering 'cash in hand' deals that will put more money in the worker's pocket at the expense of the government. This is, of course, completely illegal but desperate times call for desperate measures - let's hope that some of the businesses that find themselves struggling to compete with more financially solvent companies don't get desperate enough to put themselves and their staff in a compromising position.

Whatever the method used to maximise candidate attraction, the key to hiring will be urgency - clients who think too long on a decision will find that workers with multiple options will not react favourable to being held at arm's length. The businesses that make calculated but quick decisions with regards their hiring will come out on top in the competition for talent. 

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