The skill-sets of UK workers need to be enhanced, experts have suggested, as specialist contractors aim to take advantage of improving economic conditions.
New data from the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC) shows that 57% of specialists saw their orders go up during the second quarter of the year.
This compares favourably with the April to June period of 2013, when the figure stood at just 27%.
Despite these findings, the study warned that skill shortages could slow the growth momentum in the months to come, if efforts are not made to address them.
Almost a fifth (19%) of the contractors questioned said they have recently had to avoid submitting bids for work as a result of skill gaps. This is significantly higher than the 6% five-year average recorded by the NSCC.
The group’s chief executive, Suzannah Nichol MBE, has welcomed initiatives such as the Construction Supply Chain Payment Charter, which have sought to make life easier for contractors.
However, she added: “Investing in the skills of our workforce to meet the current demand is essential if we are to sustain the growth we all want.”
Among its other findings, the NSCC said almost two thirds (59%) of the country’s specialist contractors now expect their workloads to grow over the current three-month period.
During the coming 12 months, meanwhile, a record 72% are hopeful that their workloads will improve.
Some 43% of the respondents said that at present they are operating at a capacity of 90%.
The Construction Supply Chain Payment Charter praised by Ms Nichol encourages firms to pay contractors within a 30-day period.
In light of its introduction, payment practices appear to have improved in recent months. The NSCC said a record 16% of specialists are now receiving payments in less than 30 days.
The group’s study follows the publication of separate research from the Prince’s Trust and HSBC, which also suggests that businesses have concerns about employee skill shortages.
Over the course of the next three years, 73% of the companies queried by the charity and the banking group said they expect a skills “crisis” to impact the UK economy.