Majority of builders forced to delay jobs due to materials and skills shortages

Some 89% of local builders have had to delay jobs due to a lack of materials or skilled tradespeople, according to the latest State of Trade Survey from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).


Housebuilders have been forced to hit pause on some jobs in the face of increasing difficulty to hire general labourers and plasterers, with 42% and 37% of builders respectively struggling to get hold of them.

Despite a slight easing, near half of FMB members are also facing pressure to find carpenters/joiners and bricklayers.

In addition, 8% of builders have been forced to cancel jobs due to a lack of materials, while 12% have had to abandon opportunities due to a dearth of skilled tradespeople.

The study also revealed that 97% of respondents have reported skyrocketing material prices and expect this to continue in Q4 2021, with 78% passing the increased costs on to the consumer.

Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB, said: “Today’s FMB State of Trade Survey shows a damning situation for the building industry, with 89% of builders facing delays and some cancelling work altogether due to a lack of materials or skills.

“The government should use tomorrow's Budget and Spending Review to tackle the growing skills gap. 

“Effective efforts to help the haulage industry ease the supply of materials are also needed. 

“This will help our members get back to building and help the post-pandemic economic recovery.

“Our data shows the combination of long delays and rising prices mean consumers are also starting to feel the heat. 

“Changing quotes, delays to jobs and price hikes may lead to some homeowners being pulled in by unscrupulous builders hoping to make a quick buck. 

“A good builder is a busy builder — and it is important to be patient when selecting the right person for the job.”

Regionally, Scotland appears to be buoyant despite the materials and skills shortages, having seen results indicative of a surge in jobs in Q3 with 61% reporting increased workload, higher than the 43% reported last quarter. 

It also saw a moderate rise in enquiries, with 61% of builders saying they’d had more, compared to 52% in Q2.

Wales also witnessed a significant number of enquiries, with 77% noting higher than normal levels in Q3, up 1% on Q2.

However, this region witnessed a drop in workload, with only 55% having more jobs compared to 71% last quarter.

Meanwhile, workload in Northern Ireland remained stable in Q3 compared to the previous three months. 

However, there was a sharp decrease in the number of enquiries over the same period, with only 47% of builders saying they had seen an increase in enquiries compared to 93% last quarter, possibly reflecting the start of a return to normal market conditions.

Gordon Nelson, director at FMB Scotland, commented: “I am not surprised that both current workloads and future enquiries for Scottish builders increased in Q3 when compared to Q2, given lockdown restrictions only eased at the end of April. 

“It is fulfilling this demand, given the ongoing shortages of labour and materials, which has proved to be the biggest bane for builders.

“That there continues to be strong current demand from Scottish building companies to recruit and train apprentices, despite all of these challenges, bodes well for future business for builders into 2022 and beyond.

“With COP26 in Glasgow only a week away, we must reflect on how Scotland will achieve its statutory emissions target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. 

“A key action must be to back local builders to deliver the appropriate green upgrades to our homes.”

Gavin McGuire, director at FMB Northern Ireland, added: “The survey findings reflect what is a complicated situation for the industry here in NI. 

“From a positive perspective, it’s great to see that enquiry levels and workloads remain high; however, the continuing pressures to find skilled tradespeople and crippling price increases have caused many contractors and clients added stress. 

“We need to see a period of stability to help deliver the infrastructure and social value society demands.

“The Department for the Economy’s skills strategy urgently needs to encourage apprenticeships in construction to develop a pipeline of key tradespeople.”

Ifan Glyn, director at FMB Wales, stated: “Both the Welsh and UK governments must double down in their efforts to help alleviate these issues. 

“Builders have the potential to play a major role in our post-pandemic recovery, but are being held back from doing so.

“I would also urge homeowners to show patience with their builder during these challenging times; builders are just as frustrated as their customers about delays and cost increases.”

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