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Although a cut in budgets determined a decline in building opportunities for contractors during the recession, 2014 is the year in which these plans are re-emerging. The construction industry is getting its confidence back as tender opportunities are on the increase.

Subsequently, it is becoming evident that as tender opportunities increase contractors are facing shortages in skilled labour. As a result, the recruitment of a skilled workforce is becoming a top priority for 2014.  

West Midlands based contractor Speller Metcalfe is one construction firm that has grown in size since building opportunities have rocketed- expanding to over 200 employees in 2014 alone.

Contractors may be showing a healthy employment rate but with suppliers and sub-contractors having to cut stock and staff during the recession there appears to be a limited supply of skilled labourers, predominantly across bricklaying and carpentry, but with other trades affected.

Steve Speller, Joint Managing Director of Speller Metcalfe, reinforces the company’s stance on narrowing the skills gap within the industry: “Post-recession, attention across the industry has moved away from simply making the tender shortlist towards the development of a skilled workforce.

“Together with local sub-contractors we must employ apprentices and trainees in order to fill the current skills gap.”

“As we offer local sub-contractor’s more work, apprenticeship schemes will become a more feasible option for them too.”

David Weldon, from Staffordshire based electrical contractor E H Humphries Norton, comments on the benefits of their increased workload: ‘We have always seen the value in employing apprentices and with new project opportunities being made available to us our intake has undoubtedly increased.

‘This year after receiving contracts from Speller Metcalfe for large projects including the new build of Birmingham Metropolitan’s James Watt Campus, we have been able to take on an additional five apprentices.’

Speller Metcalfe set up an independent charity, Worcestershire Construction Apprentice Academy, to encourage Worcestershire College and school leavers to learn new skills. Working together with the Worcester College of Technology and local construction businesses, the WCAA aims to increase the number of apprenticeship opportunities available locally.

Speller Metcalfe has implemented a localism approach to sourcing materials and labour with the aim of boosting the West Midlands’ economy. This scheme guarantees that Speller Metcalfe’s point of supply must be within a minimum 30 mile radius of the proposed site, depending on availability.

The merge of three schools in Kidderminster, forming the £22m Habberley Learning Campus, is an example whereby the local economy has directly benefited from the project itself.

Whilst undertaking works on the Habberley Boarding School, 82.89 per cent of all materials were sourced within the 30 mile radius and 40.74 per cent of all sub-contractors were located within a 15 mile radius of the Kidderminster based site.

Contractors are recognising the benefits of supporting sub-contractors and suppliers grow. The knock-on effects of contractors’ increased workload have led to businesses across the sector being able to invest in their skilled workforce- improving building productivity as a result.

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