The SME construction sector enjoyed an encouraging performance in the second quarter of the year, according to the latest State of Trade Survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
With the greater uncertainty over Brexit and the potential of a no-deal scenario, as well as the skills shortage concerns that have existed for some time in the industry and remain, it is even more impressive that the SME construction sector has seen its workloads increase.
According to the State of Trade Survey, workloads remained positive in Q2 2018 – the 21st consecutive quarter of successive growth – and actually grew at a faster rate than seen in the first quarter of the year.
Skills shortages have hindered the SME construction sector previously and although the latest survey reveals that concerns remain regarding hiring certain skills in the industry, the rise in workloads was almost universal; of the home nation countries, all except Wales enjoyed better results for workloads, enquiries and expected workloads.
Although the skills shortage hasn’t held back SMEs in the second quarter of 2018, it cannot be ignored; the latest survey reveals 65% of respondents struggled to hire bricklayers – 7% higher than the previous quarter – while 60% of firms struggled to hire both carpenters and joiners, which is 5% higher than Q1 2018.
The forecast for the future remains strong too, with almost half of companies predicting rising activity in the next quarter.
However, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, believes that the sector must not be complacent, and has called on the government to listen to the concerns so that construction can continue to support the economy.
He said: “While we wait to hear what the post-Brexit immigration system will look like, we are hoping that the government will listen to the needs of the sector.
“The construction industry is a cornerstone of the UK economy, so it’s in all of our interests to do what we can to support its small firms.”