Construction jobs increase: How are employers coping with the upturn?

Construction experienced a sharp upturn in the number of workforce jobs available, according to the latest UK Labour Market statistics. Between December 2014 - December 2015, the construction industry saw an expansion of employment opportunities to the tune of 94,000. But what has this meant when recruiting for these roles? We get a flavour of the challenges faced by construction companies, as well as manufacturing, during the recruitment process. 

Released in May, the UK Labour Market report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows the headline statistic that from January - March 2016, there was an extra 44,000 people in work when compared to October 2015 - December 2015. Unemployment fell to 1.69 million. 

This is an encouraging way to bounce back from April's figures, which showed an increase in the number of people out of work for the first time since August 2015. 

The slight unemployment increase in April can, according to the Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb, be laid partly at the door of the looming EU referendum, as he believes the uncertainty could deter businesses from investing. 

He told the BBC: "There will be companies right now today who have been looking at major investments into the UK who are hanging back and considering whether that's the right thing to do. So of course, that will have an impact."

From December 2014 to December 2015, the construction industry in particular fared extremely well. Those 12 months saw the creation of an extra 94,000 construction jobs. 

Construction job growth

With the focus on the unemployment data, a figure further down the 80-page document has gone unnoticed. It centres around the number of workforce jobs available. In December 2015, this figure stood at 33.78 million - higher than those recorded in September 2015 and the previous December. 


From December 2014 to December 2015, the construction industry in particular fared extremely well. Those 12 months saw the creation of an extra 94,000 construction jobs. 

The definition of what a workforce job is should be cleared up at this point. It is slightly different from employment, which is sourced from the Labour Force Survey. As such, employment estimates people rather than jobs, and there will be some people that have more than one job. 

Not that this matters in regards to the standout change in construction jobs available. In the space of 12 months, it is quite an increase and sums up the general industrial sector pattern between December 2014 and December 2015. 

This obviously creates increasing demand on recruiting for the extra positions and considering those figures highlight extra jobs until December 2015, construction companies have had a few months to tackle the process of filling these extra positions. This is not a completely straightforward process for organisations within the industry. 

The construction industry in particular has battled a skills shortage since the recession and it is not unrealistic to say some of this is still lingering. Now, with another 94,000 positions to fill, employers will be aware of the need to tackle the problem.

Challenges of filling construction roles

JT Atkinson & Sons is a builders' merchants that has a significant presence in the North of England and can offer a variety of vacancies in construction, be it HGV Driver jobs, or opportunities in Commerce, and Management amongst others. 


A spokesperson for the company told Agency Central that although for most jobs advertised, they are able to select from a healthy amount, there are challenges in finding qualified drivers. 

The company's spokesperson said: "Filling posts is generally very straightforward, as through a high influx of candidates, we are able to select a solid number to shortlist and recruit for the majority of our roles. The only areas where we have had more of a challenge is mainly with drivers, where we saw an increase in turnover from within and a shortage of fully qualified drivers externally."

The shortage of drivers has occurred because from September 2014, legislation changes mean drivers need 35 hours CPC. The company, however, have managed to navigate this issue by relaxing the qualifications needed and making up for these through rigorous in-house training. 

It has resulted in a high volume of interest for these jobs. "We had to relax our criteria on occasions to Class 2 HGV licence as the only mandatory requirement with a view to training the successful candidate in the future. Since this time, we have had a huge increase in the number of staff we have put through HGV training internally to combat this issue."
For some organisations, the rise in construction jobs during that time were helped due to sporting events and the immediate aftermath. 

The summer of 2014 saw Glasgow stage the Commonwealth Games and an indirect positive of this was the work carried out by a company in the city received such reviews, that demand for work increased, with the knock-on effect being the creation of jobs.  

If the number of construction jobs continues to rise at the same rate it did between the previous two Decembers, the use of agencies could and should become a much more viable option for employers.



This was the experience of Glasgow Roofing Service, who offer advice on all aspects of roofing in Scotland. 

The company has been able to expand its services because of the success of its work for projects involved with the Commonwealth Games. 

The Managing Director, Jamie Woods, said: "We were fortunate that the interest increased due to the Commonwealth Games and the location of the Athlete's village which generated a lot of business along with reviews. From this it began to change how I would advertise as I was having more enquiries through email than what I was accustomed to originally."

The generation of extra business accelerated a change in marketing strategy at Glasgow Roofing Service, which included a more prominent online presence. 

This, according to the Managing Director, has created more jobs and allowed him to "take on more staff and ensure a good standard of service to all clients whilst maintaining deadlines."
Being a company that is amongst those who have contributed to the overall increase in employment opportunities within construction, it is interesting to note the recruitment process to fill these extra positions has not been plain sailing. 

It is a "demanding" process, "especially with choosing the right level of skilled professionals to maintain our high standards."

It means that there are times when the quality of candidate does not match the company's requirements or the level of work they provide for clients. The company does receive applications through its website too but it does raise the issue of how to fill positions in what seems to be an expanding market, given the construction upturn in the ONS figures. 

The construction industry in particular has battled a skills shortage since the recession and it is not unrealistic to say some of this is still lingering. Now, with another 94,000 positions to fill, employers will be aware of the need to tackle the problem. 

Undoubtedly, many employers will find a solution to this but it is perhaps wise to look at the contribution of recruitment agencies who work closely with businesses to find the right candidates for each job. Recruiting becomes much less stressful and saves employers a significant amount of time which will mean better productivity. 

One thing is for sure; if the number of construction jobs continues to rise at the same rate as it did between the previous two Decembers, the use of agencies could and should become a much more viable option for employers. 

Being a company that is amongst those who have contributed to the overall increase in employment opportunities within construction, it is interesting to note the recruitment process to fill these extra positions has not been plain sailing.

Manufacturing sector opportunities

The confidence in construction, displayed through the abundance of new job opportunities, cannot be shared by the manufacturing sector, which has seen a 1% drop in vacancies from the last quarter, which is roughly the year-on-year change too. 


In order to counter this problem, companies have had to adapt in the way shown by Penny Hydraulics, who design and manufacture bespoke lifting solutions. 

The company, like most in the industry, experienced a slowdown because of the recession but are undergoing a redevelopment of their premises that will result in further job opportunities in the next two years. 

While the interest and expertise for most of these has made filling roles an easy process, for the Engineering side of the business, it is a different story. 

The way they have navigated this problem, according to Jess Penny, General Sales Manager, is by opening up opportunities for another area of the job market; the graduate market, by finding exceptional candidates and training them. 

She said: "It is well known that there is a national shortfall of engineers and it's becoming increasingly difficult for us to find good candidates." 

Because of the involvement with Sheffield Hallam University and their Knowledge Transfer Partnership Scheme, Penny Hydraulics can "offer valuable industry experience to engineers with little or no practical experience and recruit high calibre graduates to run well-defined projects within our company."

By John Train