HOUSEBUILDERS remain optimistic about the future, despite skills shortages and uncertainty over Brexit.
Firms predict growth of 28 per cent in the next five years – up from 25 per cent last year, and average five-year investment plans are set to increase by 17 per cent according to the annual Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking Report. Meanwhile overall optimism among housebuilders is scored as 7.2 overall in 2016 – up from 7.1 last year.
This optimism comes despite a third of those that took part, admitting that Brexit uncertainty is the biggest challenge they face. Other challenges cited include the rising cost of new materials, the current planning system and skills shortages in the industry.
Pete Flockhart, head of housebuilders, commercial banking at Lloyds Bank, said: “Given the challenges that housebuilders face, the sector is painting a relatively optimistic picture, with improved growth and investment forecasts compared with last year’s survey.
“The wider uncertainty, coupled with the rising cost of materials, presents some challenges but the industry is taking steps to tackle these issues head on and plans to grow.”
A third of workers said they did not think there are enough skilled workers in the industry, and that bricklayers, electricians, plumbers and joiners are the hardest to recruit. To address the problem, 52 per cent of firms cited recruiting additional staff as their top priority, 49 per cent cited investing in training and 32 per cent cited apprenticeships.
Stewart Baseley, of the Home Builders Federation, said building skills capacity within the industry was key to solving the shortage of homes in the UK: “The industry is pushing the skills agenda hard. If we are to build more high quality homes we simply have to increase industry capacity. We are looking at how we build our individual sites more quickly; and the measures government could introduce to allow SME builders to play their part in delivering more homes.
“If we continue to create an environment in which the industry can grow as well as delivering desperately needed new homes we can play a huge part in driving our economy forward.”
Mr Flockhart added: “Businesses are confronting the much-mooted skills shortage and it is encouraging to see that almost half of the industry is making staff training a key focus and nearly a third is prioritising apprenticeships.
“Housebuilding is a key factor for the UK, driving economic growth but also delivering much-needed homes which are critical to our communities. We are therefore fully committed to the sector, not just through our continued financial support to our clients to support their growth ambitions but also by providing solutions such as our Housing Growth Partnership. This is a £100 million dedicated joint venture with the government to invest between £500,000 and £5 million to increase the supply of new homes by supporting small and medium sized housebuilders.”