The August Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) “Jobs Outlook” report covers a lot of really interesting areas, but there were a few in particular that stood out, at least from our perspective here at Peace Recruitment. I’ve already written about REC findings on customer service, but one of the other topics covered that is obviously of great interest to us – and others working in construction/property - is the availability of suitably qualified and experienced people to fill the large number of jobs that are still being created across the UK.
With Brexit on the horizon, the REC report, naturally, considers the issue of EU nationals working in the construction industry. This is most pressing in London, where nearly one third of construction workers are EU nationals. In the rest of the country, just over 8% of those working in the industry are EU nationals. With Scottish government statistics (Nov 2016) showing that 3.4% of the population are EU nationals compared to 4.9% in the UK as a whole, it’s probably reasonable to infer that there are fewer working north of the border compared to the rest of the UK, and England – especially, obviously, the south-east - in particular.
Consequently, the comment in the REC report that “the sector is extremely vulnerable to the ongoing uncertainty for EU workers,” while stating the obvious, does not give apply uniformly across the UK (any more than the number of EU nationals working in construction in Edinburgh is likely to be the same as the number in Oban).
However, with 36,000 new construction workers needing to be recruited in Scotland every year to 2021, the REC Jobs Outlook is correct to say that construction is the No. 1 area of concern for finding candidates with the requisite skills. Certainly, that’s what we’re experiencing at present and we don’t see any sign of things changing in the short-medium term. That’s also borne out by other REC findings, where they report that 14% more employers are planning to increase rather than decrease headcount. More demand + fewer candidates = a difficult market. It’s not rocket science.
What does this all mean and what can we do about it? Well, in my opinion, what it means is that while the politicians and the chattering classes continue to fret about Brexit and what it might/could/will/will not mean, those of us at the coalface need to continue to get on with the work in hand while planning for a likely decrease in EU nationals as candidates.
Whatever our political views, our candidates and clients are uninterested in them: what they want is a great candidate/great job, now thank you very much, irrespective of what “the market says.” On a daily basis, that means no excuses when it comes to sourcing quality candidates and working really hard to match them with appropriate jobs. Yes, we know there are some serious shortages, yes, we know that this drives up prices/wages, and yes, we are working our wotsits off to deliver, but, crucially, we are still succeeding. Brexit will impact on our business, but on a day-to-day basis we can’t affect what’s going to happen. Being distracted by issues that you can’t influence is one sure way for any business to fail. That doesn’t mean burying your head in the sand. Getting the short-term right – matching clients and candidates successfully - while carefully planning for the various possible changes that may happen, is the way ahead.
Chris Peace, MD, Peace Recruitment