Demand for skilled tradespeople in the UK is soaring, leading to an average weekly pay of over £1,000 in some areas. Construction News reports that self-employed construction workers in London, the South East, and the East Midlands are enjoying the biggest weekly wage increases.

Meanwhile, across the whole of the UK, average weekly earnings have hit an all-time high of £959. The figures were supplied by payroll service provider Hudson Contract.

Managing director Ian Anfield told the publication: “It has been a mild start to the year and demand on sites remains high for skilled tradespeople. We have had a busy month for entering new contracts and we are seeing anecdotal evidence of more Europeans returning to the UK labour market.”

He added: “While there are still huge issues around inflation, fuel and materials, which can only be made worse by the war in Ukraine, the construction industry is still running at full capacity. There is still huge pent-up demand for housing in the UK and there is still a shortage of skilled workers. Our clients are flat-out, with full order books.”

Building UK reports that all trades across London are taking in an average of £1,000 per week, and plumbers and electricians are earning over £1,100 per week on average. Demolition and wrecking services are also in high demand at the moment, with the average weekly pay rising by 8.1% to £938 a week.

The North-east has seen wage inflation of 15.1% during February, while Yorkshire and Humber also saw a big increase of 14.7%. Only Wales has suffered a decrease in average weekly earnings, down by 5.1% in February.

Vacancies in the construction sector remain high, as the demand for skilled workers continues to outstrip supply. New Civil Engineer reports that a combination of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic have impacted the recruitment process. Trades such as construction, engineering, and IT are affected the most, with 70% of employers struggling to fill vacancies.

The construction and engineering industries have been facing recruitment issues that date back before the pandemic, which can be attributed to an aging workforce. The active jobseeker’s market means that employees are able to easily switch jobs, which is further disrupting the development and training of staff.

Companies are being urged to tackle the problem by focusing on regular training and motivation techniques, to encourage staff retention. The engineering sector is keen to tackle the skills gap caused by increased digitisation, and is also making an effort to attract more women into the workforce.

Construction and engineering are careers that lend themselves to lifelong learning and development, as there are always plenty of new technical skills to learn. Soft skills, such as teamwork and building a positive company culture, are also being given a higher priority.

Employers are being encouraged to offer more flexibility of working hours and location, to acknowledge the challenging working conditions that the industry can sometimes present.

Dr Hilary Leevers, CEO of Engineering UK, told Prospects: ‘Ensuring that we have enough people with the right skills and experience is about bringing a greater number and greater diversity of young people into engineering.’

Dr Leevers added: ‘Engineering is a varied, stimulating and important career but we need to work harder than ever to ensure that it’s a career choice that’s accessible for the next generation of young people – not just for their own life chances but so we have a diverse and insightful workforce that enables the UK to thrive.’

Meanwhile, although wage inflation is good news for workers, soaring costs are continuing to have an impact on the construction sector. The materials shortage that was already a problem during 2021 has continued, especially for products such as steel, cement, and glass.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has further exacerbated the problem, as energy and fuel costs rise sharply. Construction News reports that the brunt of the impact is being felt by SMEs, who are locked into fixed-price contracts. This makes it difficult for them to absorb rising prices, as they are unable to pass them on to the customer.

The supply chains, which have still not fully recovered from the disruption caused by the pandemic, are being further impacted by the sanctions on Russia and the war in Ukraine. Prices for major commodities such as steel and cement have risen by as much as 10%, while the global supply of timber has also been severely disrupted.

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