The decision, described by Fitzgerald as a “personal one”, came as the parent of Edinburgh-based builder Morrison unveiled record annual profits but joined others in warning of a looming skills shortage.
Ken Gillespie, head of the group’s construction arm, said: “The industry contracted during the recession and the number of people within it reduced, but now we want to move forward with increased volumes. There’s a time lag before you can enlarge the organisation, and that has an inflationary effect as the work available increases beyond the capacity of the people to deliver it.”
Earlier this month, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply said the sector was struggling to find enough skilled people to keep pace with new work, which risks driving up costs until the next wave of apprentices enters the job market.
Gillespie, pictured, said yesterday: “Our Galliford Try Academy currently has more than 500 people in training, so we have a good source of young people coming through the business, but for the major infrastructure schemes we’ll undoubtedly have to supplement from outside Scotland.”
The group paid almost £17 million in July for the construction arm of Miller Group, the privately-owned housebuilder based in Edinburgh, in a deal that has seen some back-office job losses.
It is involved in the £790m Queensferry Crossing over the Firth of Forth and part of a consortium named in June as preferred bidder for the £745m Aberdeen bypass, which is due for completion by spring 2018.
Yesterday’s results showed the firm’s pre-tax profits grew 28 per cent to a record £95.2m in the year to the end of June, on revenues 21 per cent higher at almost £1.8 billion. A final dividend of 38p a share was proposed for payment in November, lifting the total for the year by 43 per cent to 53p.
Average selling prices at its Linden Homes division, which focuses on England and Wales, rose to £305,000, from £266,000 a year earlier. Rival builders such as Barratt and Redrow have recently hailed a return to more “normal” conditions in the market as the initial stimulus from the Help to Buy scheme begins to fade, and Gillespie agreed with that sentiment as Galliford revealed the initiative accounted for 26 per cent of sales by value.
He added: “The froth has certainly come off, and we’re very pleased about that because it makes housebuilding more sustainable.”
With Fitzgerald deciding to retire after nine years in charge, Gillespie is seen as a possible candidate for the top job, having joined the group in 2006 following the takeover of Morrison Construction, where he was managing director.
But he told The Scotsman: “It’s too early to call that one.”