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UK Construction Industry Failing to Keep Skilled Workers?

As long ago as 2012, fears were being voiced about skill gaps appearing in the UK construction market. Reports suggested that since 2008 about 400,000 jobs in the industry had been lost because of the recession. Some places had been filled by an influx of Eastern European countries joining the EU which hid the truth for a time.

But this is all retrospective and while we know that there are certainly some gaps in the skills pot, we are also aware that the buoyant market will see more investment from the industry and government to develop skilled staff. At least that is what we are led to believe and we hang on to that.

The Call of Bright Futures Abroad

In the meantime, especially when things were tough in the UK industry, the exodus of skilled quantity surveyors, project managers and engineers was noticeable.

Earlier this year a survey found that the UK construction industry was keen to hang on to its skilled workforce. 21% of those who made known their intentions to leave were offered counter-offers by their existing employers to tempt them to stay.

The counter-offers came even though professionals within the industry were demanding pay-hikes of around 15% - that’s higher than other industries participating in the survey.

This seems to indicate that the industry as a whole is keen to hang on to its skilled professionals.

A Tempting Market Place

With the UK construction and infrastructure industries on a high with many big projects underway or planned, the UK is regaining its attraction. Alongside that, salaries are increasing here according to an industry salary review.

This will help the skilled workforce remain here and return perhaps. Though experts say the salaries aren’t the only reason that the UK workforce is attracted to work abroad. Big prestigious projects also look good on CVs and experience of working abroad serves employees well in global companies and offers a necessary flexibility.

China, including Hong Kong, still has plenty of alluring projects as does the Middle East so this should keep some expats already working abroad, away from our shores and encourage others to go.

Push-me Pull-me

The global construction industry is a constantly moving force. As salaries abroad decrease and salaries in the UK climb, there is likely to be a see-saw effect that will mean skill shortages may also become evident abroad.

This is definitely the case in Hong Kong where a drop of about 20% in terms of salary is being experienced by civil engineers.

However, the Middle East construction industry is booming and is staffed almost entirely by expats. Here structural engineers with good experience are commanding salaries about a third more than they could expect only a year ago.

Who Returns and When or Why?

While salary is important, there are plenty of career reasons why skilled professionals remain abroad as there are for them to return home. Homeward bound choices are sometimes about family particularly children’s education; sometimes to do with climate or culture. These reasons also have an influence as well as the stability of market and salaries.

An Ever-moving Platform

So is the future bright for the industry? We guess it depends where you stand or should that be …work. The UK construction industry is certainly looking healthy, as is the Middle East. While some market forces are making salaries less attractive in China and Hong Kong, there is still plenty happening within the industry in Asia.

To Address the Question

So is the UK construction industry failing to keep skilled workers at home? We think the tide might be turning and although there will always be tempting opportunities abroad, it looks as though the UK is riding high and holding tight at the moment.

We will continue to keep a close eye on the way the market is steering. You will certainly find plenty of opportunities in all three destinations in our job search section.

Whether you are currently based at home or abroad, if you are looking for specific opportunities either in UK construction or infrastructure or these industries abroad, it is worth giving us a call on +44 870 243 0446 or sending us your CV.

We can definitely help you find the most suitable and remunerative job for your skill-set and to offer you career progression.



Steve Thomas
Maxim Recruitment

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