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Meeting the skills demands of the recovery – construction sector growth fuels needs for installers

Posted by Christos Panayiotou on 6th June 2014

In January this year we reported that the construction industry was seeing a return to growth and that 2014 was going to be the best year seen since 2009 when the economic downturn began. We identified that growth would be seen in retail and offices with other commercial sectors such as hotels and leisure seeing larger growth than has been seen in recent years.

This article will see us exploring further the return to growth of the construction industry and how this will impact on electricians themselves – particularly commercial electricians who should be seeing an increase in demand for their skills.

2014 so far – is construction growth going according to plan?

Glenigan, the construction industry intelligence specialists closely monitor construction industry growth and as such are able to identify which market sectors are performing strongly and which are lagging behind.  Glenigan have just issued a quarterly report in April 2014 to confirm that the construction industry as forecast back in January – is on the up.  In fact Glenigan report that confidence in the construction industry is is ballooning as growth in both the office sector – and interestingly housing has continued into the first quarter of 2014.

Office projects up by 34 per cent

As forecast, office projects are the strong performers – they are actually the strongest performer amongst construction projects with numbers of office projects beginning on site rising by 34% on the figure from this time last year.  Closely behind is retail which is up by 28% with hotels and leisure up by 15% from one year ago.

The Glenigan Index, shown below shows construction industry growth over the last year.  The figures are showing strong growth and show significant growth in the month of March to that of March 2013.

Source: www.architectsjournal.com

Private housing also a key driver of increasing construction activity

Housing had been expected to fall this year, however the demand for private housing is rising sharply and is evidenced by strong project starts during the first quarter of 2014.  However, as expected demand for social housing is starting to decline along with other public sector projects such as education, health and community projects.

Private sector demand outstripping the public sector

Projects reliant on public money are now starting to drop off, however the commercial sectors in particular are seeing positive growth.  Private firms and developers are more confident about putting money into construction.

This is leading to increased demand for both domestic and commercial installers as opportunities to work on these new projects grows.  However despite the great news and future outlook, there still remains the issue of a diminishing skill set within the construction industry as the numbers of skilled installers continue to drop.

The lack of skilled electricians and trades people could affect the return to growth

In October 2013, we reported that an ageing workforce could lead to a shortage of electricians.  Whilst we may not have reached those crisis levels yet, the article would not have taken into account the 'ballooning growth' in the construction industry.  If the construction industry continues to grow at the current rate (which is likely) it will be an impossible task to feed the demand for qualified electricians and installers on the up and coming new projects.

Of course, these opportunities present fantastic news for new entrants and trainee electricians entering the electrical industry, however there is a vastly increasing need for further qualified electricians to satisfy the current and future demands within the construction industry.

Finding the right electricians to move forward

Naturally, we understand that figures can be different to what goes on in reality so we spoke to an experienced electrical engineer who carries out work on commercial projects.  He told us that there are many projects going on in the London area at the moment.  One of the main ways companies tender for works and thereby satisfy the demand for electricians has had to change.

How major companies tender for such works

The way that major companies tender for works has changed in recent years.  In the past, such companies had their own 'in house' electricians.  Nowadays, the norm is to sub-contract electricians.

This opens up a whole wealth of opportunity for newly qualified electricians entering the industry to gain work and bolster their experience.  There is likely to be increasing opportunities for long term sub contracting work in key city locations for the foreseeable – and also longer term future.