The ongoing shortage of skilled tradespeople across the UK continues to be a major problem within the construction industry, with some areas being affected significantly worse than others. 

It’s a notable contrast from the start of June, when as the economy first began to open up again, construction boomed and activity hit a 24-year high. However, in recent months that trend has slowed, with the lack of available skilled tradespeople being a primary cause for the slump. 

Kent bricklayer shortage causes construction to slow

Kent is just one of the many areas that has struggled, where a lack of bricklayers, in particular, is causing a huge backlog in unfinished projects, particularly within the housing sector.

Kent County Council has now been warned of huge delays to the construction of hundreds of homes across the 12 districts. In Dartford, Ebbsfleet Development Corporation has a target of creating 525 homes by the end of this year, though so far, less than 50% of that number has been met. 

Material shortages, which have become another increasingly frequent problem in the wake of Brexit, were also discussed in a recent meeting. 

Councillor Murphy, of Deal and Walmer, said: "There is a lack of HGV drivers on building sites. Even if you get a hold of the goods in the first place, you can't deliver them."

Housing developers reportedly told the council that the skyrocketing costs of these materials were also having a detrimental effect, with some prices said to have risen by up to 250%. 

A survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in August detailed similar concerns. It found that despite the industry showing signs of recovering well from the pandemic, the shortage of skilled workers, notably bricklayers and carpenters, meant firms were being held back despite demand being high. 

The situation in Kent is by no means an isolated scenario either. These same issues are being felt right across the UK. In the three months before the end of August, unfilled positions hit their highest level in two decades at 37,000 vacancies, surpassing the 35,000 which had been reported in the previous three months.

Those numbers continued to rise in the three rolling months from July to September, with a staggering 43,000 vacancies being posted—nearly twice the amount for the same period just one year ago. 

This well-documented shortage of qualified tradespeople is an issue that has only been amplified by Brexit. Over the summer, Homeserve chief executive Richard Harpin warned the BBC about the impact losing EU workers would have on the wider industry, insisting that it’s “really important we find a way to get them back”.

Harpin, whose company also operates Checkatrade, called on the government to introduce a long-term plan to encourage young people into trade professions, and prevent these demand issues from happening again in the future. 

As firms face tough competition to attract the necessary talent, those currently working within the industry have been able to take advantage, with construction ranking the second highest all-industry wage inflation at a 9.7% increase, just behind financial services at 11%. 

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