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SME skills warning issued

Rising activity in the SME construction sector threatens to be undermined by the prevailing skills shortage, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has warned.

Chief executive Brian Berry said: “There can be no doubt that the building industry is booming but the skills shortage continues to loom large over our industry.”

He further stated that nearly of 50% of construction SMEs are struggling to recruit adequate numbers of skilled workers.

“Looking ahead, our members are reporting that their workloads are likely to rise over the coming three months which means the shortage of skilled workers will only become more acute.

“It also begs the question, how much stronger would the pace of growth in the UK construction industry be if we had an ample supply of skilled tradespeople?”

Referring to the government’s aim to increase apprentice numbers, he said the new levy announcement “has led to more questions than answers.

“In the Summer Budget, the Chancellor announced that the government would be introducing a levy on large employers to fund 3m high quality apprenticeships.

“The budget statement said that ‘the levy will support all post-16 apprenticeships in England’ and if this also includes the construction industry, the assumption is that the CITB levy will not continue.”

The details of the new cross-industry levy were still unclear, however, Mr Berry said.

“If the levy on large employers is only used to fund apprenticeship training by large employers, how will apprenticeship training by small firms be dealt with?

“Given that two-thirds of all construction apprentices are trained by micro firms, it’s vital that we have a system in place that drives high levels of apprenticeship training through companies of every size.

“We are keen to work closely with the Government over the coming weeks – the stakes couldn’t be higher so we must get this right,” said Mr Berry.