RICS report says workers from enlarged European Union in central and eastern Europe have eased the crisis

Skill shortages in the construction trades fell to their lowest level since August 2002 in the first quarter of this year, despite rises in construction output, according to the RICS.

Its quarterly construction survey, published today, says the enlargement of the European Union in May last year has eased the skills crisis in the industry as workers with construction skills have moved from central Europe to the UK.

Shortages of carpenters declined most sharply but the shortage of bricklayers increased. Overall, reported skill shortages have fallen 4% since EU enlargement, which took place in the second quarter of last year.

Peter Beard, managing director of construction consultant Monaghans, who contributed to the survey, pointed out that severe problems at professional level still existed.

He said: “The merry-go-round of staff continues with an acute shortage of professional staff and all consultants very busy. The 25 to 35-year-old professional is in demand.

“We are all struggling for the lack of training and people joining the industry.”

Other trends noted by the RICS during the first quarter of this year included house price stagnation, which caused a slowdown in private housing construction, whereas commercial work increased.

Construction workloads overall grew, but not as much as in the last quarter of 2004.

The RICS survey stated: “The economy’s continued strength and the government projections for higher investment spending are underpinning upbeat predictions, despite the uncertainty brought about by a looming general election.”

The RICS said that non-housing construction activity rose “solidly” in the first quarter, but warned that rising interest rates would temper expansion in the private sector.