CONFIDENCE in the construction sector is “continuing to rise”, industry leaders said as a new survey showed almost seven out of ten firms plan to take on apprentices in the coming year.
The latest Scottish Construction Monitor found 69 per cent of firms surveyed expected to recruit apprentices in the next 12 months, compared to the 60 per cent of firms who have employed trainees in the last year.
But with firms expressing concerns about a lack of suitable candidates for such posts, industry leaders want more to be done to make a career in construction an “aspirational option” for young people.
Vaughan Hart, managing director of the Scottish Building Federation (SBF), said action was needed at primary and secondary schools to encourage children to “think seriously” about working in the sector.
He spoke out as the Scottish Construction Monitor - a quarterly survey of SBF members - found an increase in confidence in the sector, which contributes about £10 billion to the Scottish economy.
A total of 58 firms were surveyed for the research in the second quarter of this year, with 52.6 per cent of them more confident about their prospects for the next 12 months than compared to the last year, a rise of one percentage point on the previous three months.
It is the fourth quarter in a row when the overall confidence level in the industry has increased, with this up two points from the first quarter of this year to a new total of +22.
Three out of four firms believe there is a need for more apprentices to help the industry meet its needs, both now and in the future.
But Scottish Construction Monitor said that a “lack of suitable candidates was the most commonly-cited barrier to apprentice recruitment”.
Mr Hart said: “It’s great to see industry confidence continuing to rise and, with that, an increasing number of companies that are looking to take on apprentices over the coming year.
“At the same time, an overwhelming majority of employers are concerned that we aren’t taking on enough apprentices to meet current demands or future expectations.
“Tellingly, the most commonly-cited reason for not recruiting more apprentices is a perceived shortage of suitable candidates.
“We need to see action at secondary and even primary school level to encourage more young people to think seriously about a career in construction and to make that a truly aspirational option for them.
“We need to get the message across that there are exciting and rewarding long-term career opportunities in the construction industry and an apprenticeship is one of the best ways of pursuing that goal.”