Confidence within the Scottish construction industry has hit a new high as 2014 draws to a close, according to the latest Scottish Construction Monitor, a quarterly survey of the membership of trade body the Scottish Building Federation (SBF).
At the same time, employers have highlighted critical skills shortages in a number of key trades and managerial positions and are calling for increased funding to help recruit and train more apprentices. Specific skills shortages are particularly acute in certain regions of the country.
The latest survey shows industry confidence at a new high of PLUS 26, up 15 points compared to the previous quarter.
This is now the sixth consecutive quarter where overall confidence within the Scottish construction industry has been rated positive and the highest confidence rating recorded since the Construction Monitor began in 2008.
The survey also asked industry employers a series of questions about skills shortages across individual trades and management roles. Respondents were asked to identify the region or regions where their business mainly operates in order to build up a profile of skills requirements across the country. The survey found carpentry and joinery skills to be in generally short supply, with companies in the North-East of Scotland particularly affected. There is also a shortage of bricklayers across all regions although the impact is especially strongly felt in the Central and Fife region of Scotland, where employers also report a critical shortage of wood machinists. Companies in all regions are reporting difficulties recruiting stonemasons and plant operators.
At a managerial level, the survey identifies challenges across all regions in filling general construction supervisor and site manager roles. Employers in the Highlands and Islands report particular difficulties with recruiting project managers.
Overall, employers in the Central and Fife region are reporting the highest number of skills shortages in the local construction sector, whereas companies in the Highlands and Islands are reporting the fewest skills shortages of any Scottish region.
SBF managing director Vaughan Hart said: "With these new survey results, it's great news that the Scottish industry is able to close 2014 on a new confidence high. That suggests that the industry's recovery is now happening. The flip side of that is that employers are encountering increasing difficulties in filling certain management roles and there are emerging skills shortages in certain trades. This seems to be particularly true of joinery and bricklaying trades.
"Our members are telling us that current levels of funding provided through Government and CITB grants to help employers recruit and train apprentices are insufficient. Given the growing skills shortages the industry is now facing, now is the time to review funding and to explore what additional support can be provided to boost training and recruitment. As an industry, we also need to be more proactive in promoting careers in construction as an excellent prospect for today’s school leavers."