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Bricklayers benefit from rising demand in construction sector

Skills shortage means brickies earning up to £1,000 a week and Brexit could exacerbate situation, say recruiters

Bricklayers are earning up to £1,000 a week as firms compete for workers to keep housebuilding and infrastructure projects on track, according to a survey of recruitment firms.

A skills shortage in the sector is making it hard for recruiters to meet rising demand, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) said. It added that a vote to leave the EU at next month’s referendum would exacerbate the problem.

Research by REC found that two-thirds of recruiters had seen demand for temporary construction workers increase over the last year. Four in 10 said finding bricklayers was particularly difficult.

Those recruiting for London projects said wages were rising as a result, with bricklayers earning up to £25 an hour. The figures for London are based on 14 recruiters, almost half of which place more than 100 temporary construction workers every week. Outside the capital a fifth of bricklayers were being paid between £20 and £25, and the rest less.

REC’s chief executive, Kevin Green, said workers were earning £34 a week more than last year on average. “Our data indicates that some employers are increasing pay faster as the competition for skilled workers intensifies,” he said.

“While this is great news for builders and tradesmen, there are hard questions that need to be asked about the sustainability of this trend. The UK is close to full employment and building firms are already struggling to find the people needed for major infrastructure projects.”

The head of the UK’s largest housebuilder, Barratt Developments, said recently that availability of labour was developers’ main challenge, also warning that things would get worse in the event of a vote to leave the EU.

The firm’s chief executive, David Thomas, said: “We would much prefer that the UK stays within the EU. We have a significant part of our labour force, particularly within the London market, coming from continental Europe – the free movement of labour in the European market is a positive from our point of view.”

REC’s survey found that 59% of construction recruiters believed a Brexit vote would make it more difficult to fill vacancies, while only 5% thought it would improve the situation. Just under a third said it would make no difference.

Green said if Britain votes to leave the EU “there’s no doubt that recruitment for some construction roles will become even more of a challenge”. However, he said that whatever the outcome of the referendum “we need to address deep-seated skills shortages”.

The latest employment figures from the Office for National Statistics showed the sector was the second-biggest job creator in 2015 and that by December there were 2.2m jobs in construction in the UK. The data also showed that average wages were up by 6.5% year on year in March.

(Source: Guradian.com, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/may/24/bricklayers-benefit-rising-demand-construction-sector)

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