A RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) survey has revealed that labour shortages could be the biggest roadblock standing between the construction sector and continuing growth. Over the first quarter of 2015, close to two thirds of polled firms claimed that a skilled labour shortage is worsening in the UK.

Skill Specialists in High Demand

With growth of 3.8% expected in the sector this year, concern is growing that the renewed vigour evident in the industry cannot be serviced by UK construction firms. A lack of specialist skill is particularly troubling, with a notable lack of skilled engineers, project managers and specialists making many nervous about the coming months.

The General Election

It’s not just skill and labour shortages which have the sector feeling somewhat spooked, despite an overriding sense of optimism. A platter of unknowns are keeping many firms cautious, with the 2015 General Election leaving many on uncertain ground. With little known about the UK’s future in Europe, or about our economic recovery, many companies are worried, despite an outward display of confidence.

Materials Costs Cool Down

There are plenty of silver linings thrown up by the RICS survey. Earlier in the year and throughout 2014, material costs were proving a barrier to growth. With more materials now in production, the ingredients of construction are now costing less, helping firms reduce costs across the board.

Finding Finance Proves Challenging

Materials costs may be down, but sourcing finance for expansion is another thorn in the industry’s side. For 9 consecutive months in 2014, lending to construction dropped. The picture is still gloomy in 2015, with many purse strings still held tight by the banks, preventing the growth of SMEs in the sector.

Positivity Reigns

Yet despite skill and finance shortages, plus a certain amount of uncertainty over the UK’s political future, optimism is tangible in RICS’ survey. 79% of those polled felt confident that they would see a growth in their workloads over the coming year.

Q1 of 2015 has companies off to a good start. Housing Association projects in the North of the country and private-sector housebuilding in the South have both contributed to growth in every corner of construction in2015.

Do you think skill and labour shortages could hold construction back? What evidence have you seen of this on the ground? Share your experiences and opinions with other tradespeople below.