This prediction is certainly proving true so far for Stephen Peake, senior manager at Hays Montrose Wales, who reports increased job flow compared with this time last year. As a result, companies are becoming more innovative in their approach to attracting candidates, customising solutions to target the people that clients need. For example, more firms are advertising on the internet and using email to reach potential candidates.
Demand is high for junior graduate site engineers, junior and intermediate quantity surveyors with up to five years' experience, site managers in their 30s who have progressed from graduate engineers to management level, and for all levels of planners.
Peake recently filled a site management vacancy working on projects up to £2m across South Wales. The client requested applicants with a minimum of 10 years' main contractor experience and also boasting health and safety qualifications. The successful candidate was 36, a local and had 15 years' experience. He was offered £28,000 and company car.
Salaries have been slowly creeping up over the last few years, with young trainee site managers and trainee QSs experiencing the highest rises. According to Peake, these candidates are aware they are in demand and are asking for higher salaries than clients want to pay. But the companies are having to meet these demands to fill the position.
For example, Peake recruited an assistant quantity surveyor for a client working on projects worth up to £2m. The surveyor had two years' experience, and was offered £17,500. He asked instead for £19,000, and his new employer consented.
Construction firms have begun to offer personal training and development – such as the National Construction College's five-day site management safety training course – within benefit packages. Also, some candidates are now taking a lower model company car in return for a higher salary.
Increasingly over the past 12 months, firms are recognising that although experience is still important, in a time of skill shortages it is more important to seek candidates who will suit the company and really want to be part of the industry. "About half our clients with junior roles to fill have become more flexible. They are prepared to take on candidates who might not fit their exact requirements, but who will grow into the job with training and assistance," explains Peake.
Peake expects his workload to increase over the next 12 months as a large number of major projects begin, such as £750m sports project in Cardiff Bay, the Welsh Development Agency's RAF redevelopment (one of Wales' biggest ever land deals) and the transformation of the Llandarcy Oil Refinery into Wales' first Urban Village – which on its own is expected to create at least 3500 jobs over 25 years.
Robert Smith is from Hays Montrose