Builders’ workloads are at their highest levels for ten years but there are fears that an increase in material prices and a shortage of workers could lead to troubled times ahead.
The latest survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) highlighted the findings from small to medium-sized (SME) construction firms across the UK.
Workload and enquiry levels were at their highest point for a decade, with 71% of builders receiving higher numbers of enquiries for future work, compared to the first quarter of this year.
Employment is an issue with 53% of builders struggling to hire carpenters/joiners, up from 23% six months ago, while 47% are unable to hire bricklayers, up from 22% in the last three months of 2020.
Rising material costs – ‘it’s a joke’
A massive 98% of builders said they are facing material price rises, with the same number expecting this to continue into later this year.
Steven Thomson’s family business Deeside Construction Banchory, was founded more than 40 years ago.
Mr Thomson, who currently employs six people at his firm, wasn’t surprised by the survey findings.
He said: “The whole situation at the moment is a joke.
“We would normally be able to get materials like concrete and cement there and then but at the moment we are having to order things months in advance.
“We are now having to plan work months in advance.
“Every week there is increases in price. Steel and concrete goes up every week. So you are having to add that onto the prices for your work as well. It all has a knock-on effect.”
The survey did find that 80% of respondents had been forced to raise their prices in the past quarter.
Brian Berry, FMB chief executive, said: “While it’s brilliant to see small, local building companies and sole traders bouncing back from the difficulties of 2020, record workloads and enquires are bringing significant challenges.
“An extraordinary 98% of small builders now face rising prices for building materials, with the same number expecting this to continue into the autumn.
“Half of those who responded to our survey are struggling to hire a carpenter or a bricklayer. Without these fundamental inputs, how can Britain build back better?”
Mr Thomson has noticed a decrease in the number of young people moving into the construction trade.
He said: “We are fully booked until the end of the year and I’d love more people to work for me but I just can’t get them.
There’s no young lads coming though the construction industry just now.”
Stephen Thomson, owner of Deeside Construction Banchory
“There’s no young lads coming though the construction industry just now.”
Mr Berry concluded: “In the absence of greater support from government and industry to explain to consumers why prices are going up, I fear a growing number putting themselves at the mercy of cowboy builders seeking to undercut quality tradespeople.
“To address the skills crisis so starkly presented by this new data, industry efforts to encourage more people into construction must be supported at the spending review with further investment in colleges.”