Scotland business

Scottish Building Federation in skills funding call

Bricklayer Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The monitor suggested there was a shortage of bricklayers across all areas

Scottish construction firms have called for increased funding to help recruit and train more apprentices.

The Scottish Building Federation (SBF) said employers had highlighted critical skills shortages in a number of key trades and managerial positions.

They were raised in the group's latest quarterly Construction Monitor, which also found industry confidence at its highest since the survey began in 2008.

SBF said it was now time to review funding for recruitment and training.

Support is currently provided through the government and Construction Industry Training Board grants.

The Scottish government said it was work closely with industry to identify current and future skills needs in key economic sectors, including construction.

Skills shortages

The survey found carpentry and joinery skills to be in short supply generally, with companies in the north-east of Scotland particularly affected.

There was also a shortage of bricklayers across all areas, although the impact was "especially strongly felt" in the Central and Fife region of Scotland, where employers also reported a critical shortage of wood machinists.

Employers in all areas reported difficulties with recruiting stonemasons and plant operators.

At a managerial level, the survey identified widespread difficulties in filling general construction supervisor and site manager roles.

Employers in the Highlands and Islands reported particular difficulties with recruiting project managers.

Overall, employers in the Central and Fife region reported the highest number of skills shortages in the local construction sector, whereas companies in the Highlands and Islands reported the fewest skills shortages of any Scottish region.

'Confidence high'

The Construction Monitor also showed confidence within the sector at a new survey record high.

The percentage of respondents who were more confident about their prospects for the next 12 months, compared with the past year, rose from 42.1% in the previous quarter to 55.8%.

It was the sixth consecutive quarter to show an overall positive confidence rating.

SBF managing director Vaughan Hart said: "With these new survey results, it's great news that the Scottish industry is able to close 2014 on a new confidence high.

"That suggests that the industry's recovery is now happening.

"The flip side of that is that employers are encountering increasing difficulties in filling certain management roles and there are emerging skills shortages in certain trades.

"This seems to be particularly true of joinery and bricklaying trades."

He added: "Our members are telling us that current levels of funding provided through government and CITB grants to help employers recruit and train apprentices are insufficient.

"Given the growing skills shortages the industry is now facing, now is the time to review funding and to explore what additional support can be provided to boost training and recruitment."

'Strong workforce'

Earlier this year, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors warned that skills shortages were threatening the pace of recovery of Scotland's construction industry.

The Scottish government welcomed the "growing confidence" in the construction industry.

A spokesman added: "The Scottish government recognises investing in Scotland's workforce is key to Scotland's future economic success.

"That's why we work closely with industry to identify the current and future skills needs in our key economic sectors, including construction.

"Building a strong future workforce is a key priority. Our youth employment strategy, published last week, outlines what we plan to do to equip our young people with the skills and knowledge they need from the early years right through to the senior phase and into an apprenticeship, further and higher education, and a job."

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