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Crystal balls and commercial roles in construction in 2018

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Market Analysis

There has been a lot written in the press about the market slowing down in 2017, but it’s only now, when I look back at the positions that have been registered with the commercial desk at Peace over the last 12 months, that I have the time to really analyse the data and make year on year comparisons. In general, the construction team at Peace Recruitment has seen a significant rise in both positions registered and, more importantly, filled (which I am obviously delighted with!) and I believe I can now describe confidently what’s been happening in our market.

Of course, the $64,000 question is  - is the market slowing down?  The answer is yes, but only slightly and it is sector specific.  While some areas of the market have stalled (civil, utilities, main contracting), others have picked up the slack and have been recruiting merrily.  Sub-Contractors and Affordable Housebuilding in particular have been so busy that they have regular and often urgent need of our assistance. 

Commercial Candidate Availability

The demand for “intermediate level” surveyors with a salary between £30k and £45k is still high.  Most clients instinctively think that this level of QS can a) hit the ground running and b) doesn’t cost too much money and so won’t rock the boat with existing staff.  Unfortunately, these candidates are so thin on the ground that it is a real struggle to find them.  This past year we’ve seen a lot of candidates moving from one sector to another: for example, moving from main contracting to affordable housebuilding has generally worked well for the individuals concerned and consequently staff retention for the clients has remained high too. 

Who is actually looking to move? 

Today, we're expecting (and getting) calls from employees of Carillion, whose sad story is being played out across the national media, but more generally, those who are interested in a move tend to be more at the senior to commercial manager level. Unfortunately for this group the roles they want are not as readily available as they might like.  Also, a lot of clients believe there is a higher risk once they start spending over £50k on salary plus the fees an agency charges for the introduction, so more often than not the recruitment process is a lot slower for candidates at this level.

This is, in my opinion, short-sighted.  These candidates can offer so much expertise to a business and can save a contractor thousands of pounds almost straight away.  Think about it; they have made all the rookie mistakes before, seen all sort of issues crop up and learned how to deal with them appropriately, but it can often be difficult to get a board of directors, focused on the upfront costs, to see things this way.  

The reality is that, despite the perception, the actual risk of taking these people on is low.  In the last year we have only had two instances - out of hundreds of successful hires - where a credit has been issued because a candidate has not lasted within a rebate period. Anecdotally, this seems to be the case across the industry, so, if you’re a director reluctant to take the plunge, be reassured! 

Scotland 2018 Predictions

I think the start to the year for commercial roles will be much the same as last year, but in the second quarter I see main contracting picking up again and roles will be popping up more often as money is released, in particular, for the various HUB projects in the pipeline.  

As an agency, the ability to be flexible is key, especially with smaller subbies who are busy but maybe don’t have the recruitment budgets of that the larger players. Peace Recruitment is an independent agency and not (yet!) a PLC, so we enjoy the benefits that come from being nimble, flexible yet in our pursuit of quality candidates for our clients.  That’s one of the main reasons my client base has doubled in 2017 and I expect it to do the same again this year.  In other words, there will be more jobs and, despite the doomsayers in the press, I am looking forward to 2018 with increased vigour and confidence.

Nicola Monro, Senior Manager, Peace Recruitment


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