Although the recession appears to be firmly behind us, its impact still remains. While the majority of the survivors in the construction industry are enjoying an increase in workload and profits, the shadow of recession refuses to budge as we continue to confront a skilled labour shortage.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) states that concerns regarding the shortage are at their highest since 2008. The private housing, commercial and industrial sectors are driving strong growth but the shortage of skilled labour, including quantity surveyors and managers, threatens to challenge future growth - growth is simply unsustainable as the skilled labour market currently stands. And, with the industry in new bloom, creating more and more job opportunities, things can only get worse if the problem remains unaddressed.
As a commercial fit out concern, Saracen is very much a part of the wider construction industry, which was one of the hardest industries to be hit in the recession. At the height of the downturn, the industry failed to attract new talent and trained professionals, such as quantity surveyors, designers and managers, came out of colleges and universities with the qualifications to begin their careers only to find that the work was not available for them.
Of those promising young workers who simply couldn't find work against the poor economic backdrop, the majority of them opted to jump ship and pursue careers that had immediate job prospects. In the meantime, the skilled workers who did have work and were made redundant became self-employed or moved abroad to countries where their skills were still in demand.
The recession has caused this shortage and now we're out of it there's no quick fix. As an industry, we're suffering the consequences because we now need these professionals but the rub is that they don't need us - they can take their pick.
One of the UK's biggest recruiters, Hays, recently reported that architects, tradesmen and other professional staff are receiving unprecedented and unsustainable increases because of competition for services. The salaries these individuals can now demand have been described as 'inflation-busting'.
The problem for us is that we can't pass on these increased costs to our clients as cost is still a major factor in the awarding of contracts and the clients won't pay more to address raised salaries. Our only option is to absorb these costs where possible and look to what can be done to safeguard future growth for ourselves.
To move forward and generate change, we have to be proactive. It's like a sausage machine - you need to pump something through to get something out and we need to do our bit to ensure that the industry has an army of professional workers going forward.
Fact is, each industry has to take responsibility for growing its own team and, to a degree, we must all home grow our own talent. Any SME that isn't a three or four-man outfit or smaller should have some sort of apprenticeship scheme in place. There are lots of good young people out there in need of an opportunity. Even if you only take on one apprentice a year, it's important to make that investment.
It's all about what you put in and if you give younger individuals the chance and nurture them, you will get their loyalty. At Saracen, we are aiming to take on at least one apprentice per discipline over the next 12 months. We've always stood as a company who concerns itself with building relationships and that includes the new ones…