Construction industry job increase: What this means for recruitment agencies

The number of construction workforce jobs increased by 117,000 between March 2015 and March 2016. 

While it is good to see a rise in vacancies, it poses challenges to all areas of the industry. Here, we focus on the challenges this increase is posing to construction recruitment agencies and how they are changing the way they work in order to fill the vacancies.

The release of the UK Labour Market Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in June brought more joy to the job market with the news that unemployment is down once again and workforce jobs are rising. 

Following on from May's decrease, June's fall in unemployment took the figure to 5%, which is the lowest this has been since October 2005. 

Between February and April 2016, the number of people in work went up by 55,000 from the three months to January 2016. When set against the same three months a year ago, an extra 461,000 people are employed. 

These numbers, which mean unemployment is at 5%, have delighted the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb. He said: "Secure employment and a decent wage are key to transforming the life chances of people right the way across the country, so I'm delighted to see another strong set of figures this month.

"There are more people in work than ever before and wages are continuing their upward climb, which is great news for hardworking families who have seen a rise in their living standards over the past year."

From March 2015 - March 2016, the number of construction jobs in the UK rose by a massive 117,000.



One of the standout figures in this report is the updated number of workforce jobs available. In May, this number was in excess of 33 million, which represented an increase between December 2014 and December 2015. 

This figure was eclipsed though by the changes in number of jobs in the UK between March 2015 and March 2016. 

The number of workforce jobs stands at 34.26 million - a whopping 186,000 higher than in December 2015 and 400,000 more than March 2015. 

As with the figures for December 2014 - December 2015, the number of construction jobs has increased. From March 2015 - March 2016 the number of construction jobs in the UK rose by a massive 117,000. 

On the face of it, this remarkable rise is great news. And while it is a good thing to see so many jobs created across a wide range of industries, such a hefty rise shines a spotlight on the acute problems experienced in construction.
 
Specifically, the skills shortage still apparent in the industry means that when this is combined with a sharp rise in the number of jobs that are available and employers need candidates for, it makes the process so much more difficult. 

Recruiters are finding that although the extra jobs are resulting in a drop in the percentage of positions filled, the turnover for agencies is on the rise.



Recruitment agencies are invaluable for helping businesses find candidates for the particular requirements of each job. But they can only do so much in this climate. 

We spoke to a number of recruitment agencies to get a flavour of how they are responding to the challenge of the huge increase in job opportunities and whether such a rise is good or bad for the construction industry. 

It is interesting to note the fortunes of Temple Recruitment - an agency formed in March 2015.

Being established at this time seems to have been beneficial given the company's Managing Director, Claire Griffin, said there has been a steady increase in jobs. 

"We launched in March 2015 and have seen a very steady increase across all of our vacancies, and we haven't seen any drop offs during typically tricky times of year."

Another agency we spoke to perfectly highlighted the fluctuating fortunes of recruiting in construction at this present time. 

Recruiters are finding that although the extra jobs are resulting in a drop in the percentage of positions filled, the turnover for agencies is on the rise. 

If we look at the bigger picture, the rise in demand simply highlights the growing skills shortages that the industry faces. Job vacancies have risen because there just aren't enough professionals to fill the supply needs.



Le Breton is an employment agency that recruits for the construction industry and their Managing Director, Nathan Bruton, says that bookings have increased drastically, with long-term positions faring particularly well.

"Between March 2015 and 2016, we have seen an increase of over 50% more bookings coming in. This has been nearer to 70% in the last three months, with nearly 40% for clients looking for long-term positions or temporary to permanent roles.

"In the past, 95% of bookings were for short, temporary roles. Now this is only 60% of our bookings."

Even now that there is heightened demand for candidates in the construction industry, Le Breton are having no problems finding them. There is however, an issue in finding "quality candidates" due to the skills shortage coupled with the huge 12-month rise in construction roles. 

Although it has led to a decrease in the total number of positions filled, there has conversely been an increase in bookings and therefore, greater turnover.

Nathan explained: "We currently only manage to fill 80% of bookings, where in the past we filled 95%. However, due to the increase in bookings, our turnover has increased by 25% in the last 12 months."

There is however, an issue in finding "quality candidates" due to the skills shortage coupled with the huge 12-month rise in construction roles.



It undoubtedly poses a problem for agencies and the wider job market in the industry. While it is encouraging to see construction's workforce jobs growing at such a healthy level, it leaves businesses and recruitment agencies with a stiff challenge to make sure the correct and skilled candidates are found for the vacancies. 

What is the best way to do this? Le Breton believe that more investment is needed to attract candidates, while training is also crucial to go along with the advantage of being able to use innovative software to find people for these ever-increasing jobs. 

Nathan said: "We now spend more money on attracting candidates via job boards as well as using social media. New software has also allowed us to ensure we contact all suitable candidates which has helped with filling bookings. We are also a training company so are able to upskill people so they are more suitable to vacancies."

The skills shortage is, according to another recruitment agency, changing the face of the construction recruitment market insofar as it is becoming a candidate market. 

This is the opinion of Chris Ferguson, Team Manager for Built Environment at JAM Recruitment. He said: "We are now in a candidate driven market, where employees have multiple options when looking for a new role. This means employers have to do everything they can to position themselves as employers of choice."

Shortages exist in a number of roles within the industry, including bricklayers as well as management positions. Taking this into account, along with the increased demand caused by workforce jobs that have been created, it is changing the way that JAM Recruitment is working. 

We are now in a candidate driven market, where employees have multiple options when looking for a new role. This means employers have to do everything they can to position themselves as employers of choice.



As it stands, all of the company's clients are advertising a vacancy and are in the position whereby candidates have the options, so the challenge to employers is obvious. 

Therefore, the efforts of recruitment agencies are even more important in this context. JAM Recruitment is meeting this challenge by expanding its offering to help candidates, while continuing to advise employers on how to get the best staff.

Chris explained: "This rise in jobs has meant we have had to address the challenge of sourcing candidates for our clients, whilst also providing advice and guidance on what they need to be doing to attract and retain their existing workforce in what is a very competitive market.

We have also grown our team, incorporating a full-time candidate resource team who play a key role in our candidate attraction strategy.



With the creation of 117,000 extra construction jobs, JAM Recruitment has seen an environment where candidates have more job options than ever before. Chris Ferguson has reacted to this by ensuring employers sell themselves as thoroughly as possible. 

"With more choice available to candidates, employers need to sell themselves and go above the basic salary to highlight the company culture, benefits, progression opportunities and other aspects that make their company a great place to work."

One thing is for sure though, which is that recruiters know they cannot stand still and have to act if they are to avert a crisis. 

"We have also grown our team, incorporating a full-time candidate resource team who play a key role in our candidate attraction strategy."

Paul Payne, Managing Director of construction and rail recruitment specialist, One Way, believes the construction industry is "unsustainable" as it stands.

He said: "The way the sector is operating at the moment is unsustainable and something needs to be done before we hit a wall and projects have to be put on hold because of skills shortages."

While there are positives that the extra jobs can bring, Paul says it merely emphasises that the supply is not yet there to fill the jobs. 

The skills shortage in the construction industry has been covered at length here, and Paul explains: "If we look at the bigger picture, the rise in demand simply highlights the growing skills shortages that the industry faces. Job vacancies have risen because there just aren't enough professionals to fill the supply needs."

These opinions perfectly illustrate the challenges that still exist within construction, despite the buoyancy of the job market. It also reaffirms the need for recruitment agencies, who are as crucial now as they would be if the number of jobs wasn't quite as healthy. 

Written by John Train