Brexit, Covid or job security: Why traders are struggling to recruit
- Credit: Archant Norfolk
Traders and business leaders believe factors from Brexit to job security are behind the struggle to recruit new staff as businesses across Norfolk struggle to get new recruits through the door.
Across Norfolk, the trades are reporting concern as the increase for work has been met with job adverts that have received little to no reply to them. This is causing several businesses to have stifled growth as they look to bounce back from the pandemic.
A report issued by CITB, a leading training industry for traders, says the East is below the annual average recruitment requirement based on the 2020 workforce level, at 1.2pc a year. While this might seem low, the report suggests the industry must recruit a further 3,400 new workers each year between now and 2025 to deliver the expected work.
Steve Radley, CITB Policy Director, said: “There are historic issues that CITB and the industry need to address by attracting and training more domestic talent, as access to migrant workers from the EU gets harder. These pressures have been accelerated by the post-lockdown surge in demand, while latest figures show that 130,000 construction workers, or 10pc of the construction workforce, are still on furlough.”
CITB is working to combat this. Last year they gave construction companies, mainly smaller firms, £46.3m funding through apprenticeships to support 20,635 apprentices.
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One of those struggling with recruitment is Orange Fox Electrical. The company based in Guestwick has said the problem surrounds their expansion as the demand increases post lockdown.
Karen Harris, director of Orange Fox Electrical, said: “We are trying to grow our business and we are booking weeks in advance now.
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“We cannot employ qualified electricians fast enough but we are failing to obtain the applicants.”
The company works on a scheme where for every qualified electrician they recruit, an apprenticeship follows suits. However, due to their current issues of recruitment that has come to a stop.
The company believes that Brexit and the pandemic have caused people, who would normally look to move, to stay where they are. They said that several prospective employees have been interviewed but have turned down the opportunity to move due to the fear that there is no security going forward and it is ‘better the devil you know.’
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders said the issue of skill shortage has been seen across the country for many years.
“The skills shortage in construction has persisted for many years now, seriously hampering local building firms’ ability to grow,” he said.
“The FMB’s most recent State of Trade Survey found that a staggering 53pc of builders were struggling to hire carpenters and joiners in Q2 of 2021, with a similarly staggering 43pc struggling to recruit bricklayers.”
“Much more needs to be done to boost the profile of construction as a profitable and rewarding career path for school leavers and those seeking to re-train. For too long, apprenticeships have unfairly been viewed as a poor relation to academia.
"Greater support needs to be given to those building firms training the next generation of tradespeople.”
These concerns were echoed by Chris Conroy, director for Vincents Electrical Ltd based in Norwich.
“We have seen a real issue with the recruitment of well experienced, good quality staff,” he said.
“Our recruitment and expansion are restricted as there seems to be a real fear of change and loss of security.
“It is a shame as this directly impacts both the recruiter (and their company development plan) and the prospective employee who will see, in the future, difficulties with career progression.
“We do need to get the ‘trades’ labour market going with more confidence, that the buoyant market will continue to flourish, giving longer-term security for those who may want to move but feel unable to take that leap of faith presently.”
We approached several traders from across the region, some of them echoed these concerns but did not want to be named. Others did not reply to our request.