Skills shortages and rising costs hamper construction growth

The north's construction sector is being stymied by a lack of skills and the rising cost of materials

THE inability of firms to recruit key staff, aligned to the cost of materials still spiralling upwards, is continuing to impact workloads in the north's construction sector, which was flat in the first quarter of this year, the latest RICS/Tughans NI industry monitor shows.

And investors are reportedly pressing pause on projects due to the increasing risk of inflation and because of the potential rise in the cost of finance due to rising interest rates.

More than half (55 per cent) of Northern Ireland respondents cited a shortage of skills, mainly for quantity surveyors and other construction professionals, as problematic.

Private housing and infrastructure were the only two sub sectors to experience increases in workloads while it was flat in public housing and declined in both private commercial and private industrial.

Skills shortages are impacting Northern Ireland more than any other part of the UK, and the RICS is urging the incoming Executive to recognise, encourage and invest in the upskilling of built environment professionals to create a highly skilled local workforce in their Manifesto ahead of this week's election.

RICS' regional construction spokesman Jim Sammon said: “Unfortunately the tone of the construction market is not as upbeat in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK.

“There are clear concerns around the skills shortage and lack of labour in the market. A big challenge for the sector is the new-found ability to work from home and many construction professionals finding better paying jobs outside Northern Ireland.

“It is clear that there is a significant skills gap, which may be a factor in construction workloads falling flat, and in order to meet the future needs of communities we need to attract and retain a larger and more diverse workforce.

“The manifesto released by RICS calls for the NI Executive to support more apprenticeships and to work with industry to deliver training which will close this gap. By supporting initiatives to grow our workforce, we can work towards increasing workloads in Northern Ireland which in turn will benefit the economy.”

Michael McCord, senior partner at Tughans, said: “Increased costs and shortages of skills and materials are causing severe problems for the construction market here.

“It is concerning to see that surveyors in Northern Ireland are much less optimistic about the next 12 months in comparison to those in the UK.”

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