Scots builders' confidence remains resilient

Confidence among Scottish construction employers has held steady in the closing months of 2016, according to a key industry survey.

The survey quizzed hundreds of building firms. Picture: Michael Gillen

The latest Scottish construction monitor reveals a confidence reading of +2, matching the result for the previous quarter.

The report is conducted among the membership of trade association the Scottish Building Federation (SBF), and covers companies operating from the Orkney Islands to the Borders.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It marks the second consecutive quarter during which the overall confidence has been rated positive after a slump to -19 at the end of June, immediately following the UK referendum vote to leave the European Union.

SBF managing director Vaughan Hart said: “Overall, construction employers are continuing to feel cautiously optimistic about the outlook for their businesses over the next 12 months, reflecting a more general feeling of very cautious optimism about the outlook for the Scottish economy in 2017.

“But I think that sentiment is very finely balanced and there is equally a lot of uncertainty about how the construction sector and the economy as a whole will actually perform next year. For this reason, the industry’s overall confidence rating remains only marginally positive this quarter.”

The latest survey also posed a series of questions about craft apprenticeships and proposals now being floated to abolish the skills test that craft apprentices in construction are traditionally required to undergo before completing their four-year apprenticeship.

Taken during the final year, the test is typically overseen by an industry employer and is designed to verify that the person’s practical skills in their chosen craft have reached a suitable industry standard.

It is being suggested that the skills test could be removed from the nine construction craft apprenticeships at SVQ Level 3 with effect from the 1 April. These frameworks cover key construction trades such as joinery, carpentry, plastering and roofing.

An overwhelming 96 per cent of respondents to the survey agreed that the Level 3 apprenticeships in construction should retain the requirement to complete a skills test.

Hart said: “This survey is an initial snapshot of industry employers’ views and we will continue to survey our own members and the industry more broadly about what they think should happen to craft apprenticeships in the future.
“But the results of this survey point to an overwhelming level of support for retaining the skills test as a core plank of SVQ Level 3 craft apprenticeship frameworks – and a vital quality assurance tool.
“We believe that the skills test is the only proven and practical means of ensuring apprentices have reached the necessary competency within their chosen craft, proving they have the on-the-job skills they will need for a successful future career in construction.”