Why is the construction industry facing an imminent crisis?

The construction sector is facing a crisis because of a dearth of workers – but it means wages are soaring, according to a leading recruiter.

Berry Recruitment, whose Southampton branch also has an industry training centre, said that some companies are having to temporarily close because of the shortage.

The business has other specialist construction branches in West Wickham, King’s Lynn and Cornwall, and the situation is the same in all of them.

With a lack of materials and drivers as well as the ‘pingdemic’ keeping some people at home the problem has been greatly exacerbated.

However, it does mean that wages for workers are going up.

In some instances, labourers who two years ago were on minimum wage are now earning around £14 an hour, and some tradesman who were on around £14 an hour are now earning nearly £20.

The pandemic has led to a spike in demand for construction staff; some building projects that were mothballed have now resumed and many home-owners are adding extensions rather than moving.

Lee Gamble, managing director of Berry Recruitment, which works from nearly 40 locations around the country, said: “Construction firms are really struggling for staff.

“Labourers and all types of tradesmen are in short supply and new projects are being delayed because of it.

“Some companies are having to close temporarily because they simply have no workers available.

“There is a lack of materials due to problems getting them imported and if they are imported there is a lack of drivers to move them to the wholesalers, and if they do get to the wholesalers there is a lack of workers to use them.

“For the lowest paid it means improved wages, but prices of materials are also going up and this could affect inflation.

“Many foreign workers who went home during the pandemic are unable to return or have found other work and they are the ones who have sustained the industry for years.

“Add to that the ‘pingdemic’ with staff isolating and it’s easy to understand why there is such a shortage.

“Furthermore, a building boom is underway because projects delayed due to lockdowns are resuming and home-owners who have saved money during the pandemic are adding loft conversions and extensions. It is a perfect storm.

“We need school leavers and those coming off furlough to enter the industry in order to keep it going.

“Our specialist construction training centre in Southampton is seeing more people through its doors, but not enough.

“The situation is the same across the country and it will continue to struggle unless we get more workers into construction.”