Recruitment agencies report skills shortages will worsen if Britain votes to leave EU

Wages for bricklayers working in London have hit £25 an hour, according to a new survey of construction recruitment firms..

The poll of job agencies, carried out by the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), shows that two thirds (63 per cent) report that demand for temporary construction workers has increased over the last year with 69 per cent citing the shortage of bricklayers, labourers and other tradesmen as the first or second most significant risk to their business.

Forty three per cent of recruitment agencies said finding bricklayers is particularly difficult, particularly in London, where they are taking home up to £1,000 a week.

And the shortage of candidates will be exacerbated if the UK votes to leave the EU, the association predicts. While 59 per cent say a ‘Brexit’ would make it more difficult to find suitable workers to fill vacancies, just five per cent believe the situation would improve.

The association’s findings follow the latest employment data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which showed a year-on-year increase in wages in the construction sector of 7.5 per cent excluding bonuses. 

REC chief executive Kevin Green said: “If you work in construction you can expect to be earning £34 a week more than last year, and our data indicates that some employers are increasing pay faster as the competition for skilled workers intensifies.

“Whilst this is great news for builders and tradesmen, there are hard questions that need to be asked about the sustainability of this trend. The UK is close to full employment and building firms are already struggling to find the people needed for major infrastructure projects. If Britain leaves the EU there’s no doubt that recruitment for some construction roles will become even more of a challenge.”

He said that irrespective of the EU referendum’s outcome, the construction industry needed to address its deep-seated skills shortages by taking on more apprentices and by employers investing more in training.