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Figures indicate the vagaries of the construction sector recovery

The new figures have highlighted the regional disparity in the availability of construction jobs in the UK, sending a clear signal to skilled tradesmen that recovery of the construction market is far from uniform.

The figures were released to Construction News by job board site, CareersinConstruction.com, and show that nearly twice as many construction jobs have been advertised in London and the South East that the rest of the UK combined so far in 2013.

The greatest number of jobs to come on the market have been for trained engineers, who have seen 10,236 positions made available. At the other end of the scale, the most hotly contested jobs have been for architects, with just 1,243 jobs posted and an average of 17 applications being submitted for each job.

The fight to gain a construction job is proving most difficult in the extremities of the British Isles with 17 people applying for each of the 27 construction jobs created in Northern Ireland this year, with 29 applying for every post advertised in the Channel Islands and 45 competing for each highly sought-after construction job in the Isle of Man.

Many of the major contractors in the UK are exploring different avenues to find work for their employees – with some even turning to sending their employees to work on overseas projects in countries where engineering and building skills are still in strong demand. Jacqueline Hinman, the international division president of CH2M Hill told Construction News that she was not worried about fulfilling her companies pledge of recruiting 500 new workers this year, as the workers will be able to ply their trades on the company’s foreign projects.

The posting of workers abroad is one way of maintaining the skills base of the UK’s tradesmen and women while work is scarce and could well become a rite-of-passage experience for construction workers as the British building economy regains traction.

The potential loss of skills due to the falling workloads is an issue that industry bodies and companies are not taking lightly. A group of contractors and trade federations – including Bam Nuttall chief executive Steve Fox, the CBI’s Rhian Kelly, and Costain chief executive Andrew Wyllie – were all part of a major industry meeting in January in which they lobbied the Government to act on helping them to maintain vital construction skills.