William Eichler 22 August 2016

Skills shortage in construction at ‘breaking point’, survey reveals

Skills shortage in construction at ‘breaking point’, survey reveals image

The skills shortage in the construction sector is at ‘breaking point’ and negatively affecting the quality of public sector projects being delivered, according to a built environment specialist.

A survey of the construction supply chain, carried out by Scape Group, revealed 85% of public sector managers had seen the quality of their built environment projects negatively affected by the skills shortage.

Over a third (35%) of public sector managers felt that the skills shortage was ‘bad’ or ‘severe’ in their area and 80% of public sector respondents see the shortage as negatively impacting their ability to keep to budget.

42% of public sector managers highlighted it as one of the biggest barriers to a sustainable supply chain.

The survey, published in the report Sustainability in the Supply Chain, also approached contractors and subcontractors and revealed a vast division between the public and private sector when it comes to how they define a healthy supply chain and what their primary aims are.

Within the private sector, long term operational stability was the core aim (72%), minimising waste and recycling came in second (63%), then supporting local economies (58%).

For the public sector respondents, 70% of those surveyed felt that providing long-term benefits for the local economy should be one of the biggest priorities.

When asked what makes a healthy supply chain, 67% of public sector managers said local skills and suppliers is the most important element. In the private sector, 67% of respondents said stable pricing, while 63% cited stable employment patterns as key.

The survey also asked those taking part about the communication challenges between the public and private sectors. 75% of suppliers believe the public sector needs to do more to engage with its supply chain, and 80% of public sector managers agree.

SMEs responded they found the public sector tendering process particularly difficult, with 51% not feeling well informed about future public sector contracts.

Only 7% of SME suppliers are aware of public sector projects more than 18 months before they can bid for the work, the Scape Group found, and 23% of SMEs would like to know about contract opportunities up to two years before the contract is due to start.

The public sector funds more than a quarter of the business for 64% of contractors and suppliers interviewed. When broken down further, it is clear that SMEs rely more heavily on the public sector, with over a quarter (26%) of companies stating it funded more than 50% of their work.

On this last point, Scape Group’s chief executive Mark Robinson, comments: ‘Given the current economic uncertainty the £30bn of public sector construction activity is a vital stream of revenue for the sector and early signals from the new government that austerity measures might be eased would be welcomed across the board.’

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