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Specialist contractors consider expansion as optimism rises

The specialist sector looks to be entering a period of positivity according to the latest NSCC State of Trade Survey.

The results for the second quarter of 2013 show Specialist Contractors reporting an increase in enquires for the third quarter in a row, up to a 6-year high of 49 per cent, with only 24 per cent reporting a decrease.

Order levels are also up with 44 per cent reporting an increase, compared to just 27 per cent last quarter.

This increase in trade has led 31 per cent of Specialist Contractors to look at expanding their businesses in the next three months with 41per cent planning expansion over the next year.

However, their plans may be hindered by the number of skilled workers that have left the industry to seek alternative employment during the recession. 20 per cent of Specialist Contractors are reporting more difficulty in recruiting skilled labour, the highest level for more than five years, and 9per cent are already stating that they were unable to bid for work because of skills shortages.

In order to stop this trend as the industry recovers, it is essential to start investing in the development of new talent and NSCC is working closely with CITB to facilitate apprenticeships and upskilling for Specialist Contractors.

Late payment is still affecting Specialist Contractors with just 5 per cent receiving payment within 30 days. For the 54per cent of respondents who carried out public sector work, 74 per cent of their contracts were reported as being paid within 30 days.

This is encouraging, although with 30-day payment now a contractual requirement on central Government contracts, there is still more work to be done to ensure that all Specialist Contractors benefit from the Government’s commitment to prompt payment.

NSCC chief executive Suzannah Nichol MBE said: “After an extremely tough few years, it’s good to see optimism returning in the specialist sector. However, successful long term growth will only be possible if the industry solves the problem of late payment which continues to impact on the supply chain. This has been recognised in the ‘Industrial Strategy: Construction 2025’ and NSCC will be working with Government to ensure that the commitment to address payment practices is taken forward.”

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