Wheel barrows leaning against a wall next to a hi-viz jacket and hard hat

2023 saw the construction industry faced with a number of complex hurdles, with rising material and energy prices, skilled labour shortages and the cost of living crisis regularly cited as major challenges across the sector.

However, with 2024 now underway, many experts are optimistic about what the next 12 months hold, including Glenigan predicting industry growth of 12% (via ITS Construction), and £404bn in generated revenue as highlighted here by Approach Personnel.  

Which trades are most in demand?

While growth outlooks are positive for the industry, skilled labour shortages look set to continue as one of the leading issues for construction bosses. 

Recent research conducted by UK metal supplier, metals4U (via Approach Personnel) reviewed job listings on Indeed, Totaljobs, and Reed. The study found a total of 80,000 live construction vacancies, suggesting the skills shortage won’t be slowing anytime soon. 

The research also highlighted the trades that were in particularly high demand, with builders, electricians and gas engineers the three most sought-after skill sets. 

  1. Builders (41,505 vacancies) 
  2. Electricians (9,365 vacancies) 
  3. Gas Engineer (7,393 vacancies) 
  4. Flooring Contractor (6,081 vacancies) 
  5. Carpenter (4,791 vacancies) 
  6. Plumbers (4,585 vacancies) 
  7. Joiner (3,865 vacancies) 
  8. Window Cleaner (3,717 vacancies) 
  9. Painter (2,277 vacancies) 
  10. Roofer (1,618 vacancies) 

This echoes the latest UK Trade Index’s prediction that an additional 937,000 recruits will be needed to cope with demand over the next decade.

What sectors are driving construction activity?

Following a drop in 2023, construction output is set to rise by 1.1% according to Glenigan’s Construction Industry Forecast 2024-2025

Several high-profile civil engineering projects will be key drivers in output, including the new Thames Crossing, HS2 Phase 1, and Hinkley Point C.

The Department of Education’s plans to build or refurbish more than 800 schools and colleges over the next decade could also lead to a notable surge in activity. 

London’s office renovation and refurb sector is also showing a positive bounceback, with a record 5.1 million sq.ft of new construction starts already on the cards.

What construction trends will dominate 2024?

While 2023 saw the UK government water down a number of its green targets, the Prime Minister insisted that plans are indeed still in place to become net zero by 2050. 

Given the construction industry’s substantial environmental impact, sustainability will likely be a bigger focus than ever before right across the sector. Whether it’s switching to lower-impact building materials, steering away from traditional natural gas supplies or prioritising circularity, construction has a huge role to play if net zero is to become a reality. 

3D printing is another innovation that we’ll almost certainly see more of this year. This revolutionary technology can be used for several tasks, including laying concrete, powder binding and additive welding.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a technology that is also being utilised more regularly. This can be hugely beneficial in building design, offering businesses a way to create highly-detailed virtual blueprints that can help optimise the entire construction process. 

While the construction industry had to weather a series of difficult challenges throughout 2023, the early signs for the year ahead provide plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Despite skills shortages still being a genuine problem for businesses, it does mean those who possess the coveted skill sets and qualifications could be in a strong position when it comes to both job prospects and earning potential.