Civil engineering contractors report growing concern over ability to recruit skilled staff and increase in costs

Costs and a lack of skilled staff are putting the prospects for recovery in the infrastructure market at risk, according to civil engineering contractors.

A survey by CECA, conducted as part of its workload trends data for the second quarter of 2013, showed that inflation and a shortage of skilled staff were two of the top three concerns for contractors.

It is the first time since the financial crisis these issues have been considered this concerning by the association’s members.

However, workload remained the biggest worry for respondents.

Alasdair Reisner, CECA director of external affairs, said that inflation and a lack of experienced staff was “impeding trading conditions” in the infrastructure sector.

He added: “Infrastructure contractors are particularly vulnerable to inflation in the costs of materials and fuel. The UK also needs to address skills gaps in the industry as a matter of urgency.

“If the UK fails to address these issues, our infrastructure sector will be unable to generate the economic growth we need for a sustained and sustainable recovery.”

One contractor told CECA: “Our biggest issue is availability of good quality professionals such as estimators and project managers.”

Another said it was “increasingly difficult” to find experienced staff.

Other contractors identified increasing cost of aggregates, bitumen and fuel as threats to their business.

The survey also showed that workloads in the sector remained flat for the third consecutive quarter.

But it also found some sub-sectors reporting growth with a net balance of 69% of firms reporting an increase in rail work. But this was offset by declining workload in the local and national roads sectors.