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Specialist recruitment struggles hit 14-year high

Almost half of all specialist contractors are struggling to recruit skilled workers, according to new data.

The shortage of skilled labour is at its highest point for 14 years, according to a report ftom the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC).

Just under half (47 per cent) of specialist contractors have experienced difficulty in recruiting skilled workers during Q1 2015, said the report.

By contrast, only two percent of specialist contractors have found it less difficult to recruit than in the previous quarter.

As a result, the balance of recruitment difficulty - the difference between the number of firms reporting greater difficulty recruiting and those reporting less difficulty in recruiting - now stands at its highest point since 2001.

More than three quarters of specialists (77 per cent) cited the low number of skilled applicants as a reason for the recruitment crisis, while a lack of required experienced (54 per cent) and a lack of required qualifications (41 per cent) were also given as reasons.

The shortage of labour left 28 per cent of specialist firms unable to bid for work - this is higher than any point since Q2 2007.

But for the first time in 18 years, half of all specialists expect that recruitment levels will rise over the next quarter, compared to 2 per cent expecting them to fall.

And despite the increasing pressure of skills shortages, specialists’ work outlook is positive.

Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of specialist contractors reported an increase in enquiries, up 27 per cent on Q4 2014, while 54 per cent saw an increase in orders in Q1 2015.

A record 78 per cent of specialists expect to see an increase in workload over the next 12 months, while only 2 per cent are forecasting a decrease.

Although workloads are increasing, tender prices have now hit a record high, with 54 per cent of specialists reporting an increase during Q1. The net balance of +43 is the highest ever recorded by the NSCC survey.

More positively, no respondents had to wait more than 90 days for payment in Q1 2015, while 75 per cent were paid between 30 and 60 days and a further 20 per cent being paid between 60 and 90 days.

Only 5 per cent of specialists saw payment in under 30 days - below the five year average of 6 per cent.

Commenting on the survey, NSCC chief executive Suzannah Nichol said: “The growing construction market is great news for Specialists Contractors but we need to tackle head-on the skills crisis that is facing the industry.

“If we do not invest in recruiting and training people with the right skills, the industry will not be able to meet demand and this will impact on the wider UK economy.”

Last week, the NSCC confirmed its merge with the UK Contractors Group (UKCG), with Ms Nichol taking the CEO role.

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