Six months ago, Wales hit the headlines over its massive skills shortages. Robert Smith of Hays Montrose looks at the projects that are desperately seeking staff
At the beginning of 2003, CITB reported that more than 3500 people would be needed annually to supplement Wales' existing workforce and meet its massive job growth. Almost a year later, the Welsh construction industry is still amazingly buoyant, with the number of major building projects increasing dramatically throughout this period.

South Wales, in particular Cardiff and Swansea, is at the apex of this boom. Civil works such as motorways and distribution road projects are creating a huge demand for construction professionals, and Cardiff's docklands are dominated by commercial and retail developments. A number of hotels and superstores, including Ikea, are moving into the Cardiff Bay area, as are popular pub and restaurant chains.

Both the public and private sector are keeping contractors busy, with many companies committed to sizeable long-term projects. Taylor Woodrow recently won a 10-year contract to build an £800m sports village and will also be building the Welsh Assembly building. HBG Construction is managing the massive Queen Street retail development, and lots of local companies such as Cardiff-based contractor Stradforn are also benefiting.

With such regeneration also comes housing. "The city is going through a huge residential boom at the moment, with lots of cash being pumped into converted warehouse apartments and lofts," says Andy Frost, manager of Hays Montrose Cardiff. "Smart developers are using the city's older buildings to maximum advantage by keeping the original facades and building entirely new complexes behind. These are especially popular with young professionals."

Outside Cardiff, the Welsh Development Agency's redevelopment of RAF St Athan into an aviation centre of excellence is one of Wales' biggest-ever land deals and is creating a great deal of work. There is also the transformation of the Llandarcy oil refinery into Wales' first urban village, which is expected to create at least 2500 homes and 3500 jobs over a 25-year period. Civil projects, such as the Heads of the Valley roads structure PFI, affect highways from Swansea to Kent and have generated a number of five- to 10-year contracts.

So how has this affected professionals in the industry? "Engineers and quantity surveyors are the hardest to find right now," says Frost. "Foremen and managers aren't too difficult, but clients are desperate for professionals with a trade background. Salaries and benefits have reflected this. Fresh graduates haven't had trouble finding work, but it's the intermediate and senior levels who are benefiting from the current shortages."

Frost recently filled an estimator role for a large national contractor with offices in Newport, Gwent. "They were adamant they wanted someone experienced for the role. I showed them eight CVs in total, one of which was a 23-year-old graduate who had two years' experience with a small local contractor.

"After agreeing to see him as a back-up choice, the client realised he had the potential to be trained to an appropriate level and offered him the job. The candidate had experience working on projects up to £10m in the past, but will now be working on much larger contracts, which is fantastic for his career progression. He has been offered a much more generous salary than in his previous role, rising from £18,000 to £30,000 in the next two years, and his package also includes a company car, contributory pension scheme, share incentives and an annual holiday bonus."