Construction firms hire Portuguese brickies on £1,000 a week

Firms say there is a lack of skilled UK workers

Updated: 
Bricklayer checking wall with spirit level, low angle view

Building firms are taking on Portuguese bricklayers at £1,000 a week because they can't findskilled British workers.

In the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, the recruitment company says that employment prospects in the construction industry are at their strongest level since 2007.

As a result, it says, many employers across the UK are finding it difficult to hire suitable staff. Indeed, one in three large construction firms in London is actually having to turn down opportunities to bid for work because of the shortage of skilled workers.

Paying twice as much

Manpower managing director Mark Cahill says firms have told him that they are paying £1,000 a week for Portugese bricklayers - twice the usual amount. Meanwhile, energy companies are hiring Spanish engineers.

"There is a severe shortage of skilled tradespeople in Britain – bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, mechanical engineers, HGV drivers," Manpower's James Hick explains to the Daily Mail.

"Where they were paying £500 a week at the beginning of the year, the demand for those skills means they are now paying £1,000 a week.That pressure on skills is huge, particularly in the construction industry in the south-east and London."

Number of key industry sectors

According to a recent report from the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and KPMG, the number of employment areas suffering skills shortages has risen from nine last year to 43 today. These include every type of engineering, from mechanical to software, and civil to electrical, as well as IT, nursing staff and teachers.

"Employers still cannot find staff with the right skill set. Their desperation to fill recruitment holes is leading to continued wage growth, which is creating a market that is both unsustainable and unrealistic," says Bernard Brown, partner and head of business services at KPMG.

With vacancy growth reaching its highest since the survey began, I believe that the nervousness in the marketplace is more about the consequences of investing in the wrong people, than it is about spending money in an attempt to recruit the best talent."

The answer, says Cahill, is for construction firms to think ahead, as well as being more creative about how they deal with the skills shortage.

"Many of the large construction firms are taking on people at an earlier stage in their career, and investing in their development through training and apprenticeship programmes to ensure they're equipped with the know-how for the job," he says.

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