Tales of doom and gloom abound in the wider economy. As I write, Lehman Brothers has gone under.
Let’s not forget that this is one of the biggest names on Wall Street, a financial institution that goes back nearly 160 years and one that survived the Great Depression. So things are tough out there and not, of course, only in the USA; just ask UK housebuilders how they are doing.
Yet, the construction industry as a whole is bearing up well amid all the talk of a recession. Many children have just returned from summer holidays to shiny new classrooms as Labour’s plans for 230 new schools a year start to come to fruition. Similarly, Blair and Brown’s legacy will be an NHS that boasts new hospitals on a scale not seen since the birth of the state-funded health service.
Many m&e contractors’ workloads are bearing up nicely. Witness the performance of T Clarke and NG Bailey’s record turnover, albeit one that was tempered by the announcement that challenging conditions in the rail sector had hit profits. Indeed, contracts are so tough in the market that Emcor has quit the rail sector altogether. Depite such hiccups, the Institution of Engineering and Technology reports that the majority of firms in engineering are continuing to expand and recruit new staff, despite increasingly pessimistic economic predictions.
Our salary survey, produced by Hays Building Services, shows that labour demand is still outstripping supply. Skills shortages are causing some pretty chunky salary rises out there, with contractors having to pay above average rates for the right person. The long-term solution is to attract more people into the industry and to spend money on upskilling your workforce.
Ironically, there is plenty of unused funding sloshing around out there to help you to do just that. Why not spend some of it?
Andrew Brister, Editor
Electrical and Mechanical Contractor