By Martyn Makinson, Managing Director, Ionic Recruitment

The construction industry is currently enjoying a period of strong growth, resulting in a shortage of available labour. As a recruitment consultancy, specialising in the social housing and consultancy sector, we are also witnessing the impact of the industry’s surge.

The job market has been rising steadily since the start of the year and this can be attributed, in part, to a strong demand for new projects in the residential sector, which according to The Markit UK Construction PMI (Purchasing Managers’ Index), grew at its steepest rate since November 2003.

These findings are reflective of the housing market in general, which according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors only fell for the first time in two years during August. Prior to this it had been increasing steadily.

The Markit UK Construction PMI also highlights that the construction industry overall has grown for 15 consecutive months and that in July 2014, hiring in the sector grew at its fastest rate since the survey began in April 1997. This can be accredited to previously stalled projects recommencing on site and private sector developers having the confidence that their builds will sell.

Candidate confidence has certainly increased in line with the industry’s growth, buoyed by positive media coverage and the clear developments in and around towns and cities. During the recession, where confidence in the construction sector was at an all-time low, construction professionals were wary of changing employers. Workers didn’t want to find themselves changing employers only to be made redundant if their new company got into financial difficulty; it was therefore a case of ‘better the devil you know’ and people sat tight.

With market conditions improving, people have become more confident about changing employers and the companies who haven’t acted fast enough to implement retention strategies have ended up losing their ‘top talent’ to competitor businesses.

The competition among construction companies to attract ‘talent’ has become fierce in the last six months, as the situation of supply and demand has become more prevalent as the industry recovers from the recession. As such, the need for construction staff has become so great that salaries have increased far beyond that of the rate of inflation, as companies are bidding against each other to attract staff.

There are provisional measures we can take to end the shortfalls in employment, such as the hiring of temporary staff. Provisional working arrangements are a growing trend within the construction sector; in August Ionic successfully secured over 120 temporary roles. Employers need to stay up-to-date with the needs of today’s work force and temporary work is just one of the ways that businesses can offer flexibility.

By working across a number of different projects, the employee becomes multi-skilled. Today, temporary workers increasingly include highly skilled individuals with a range of experience and these employees can tackle critical projects that are limited in time and scope.

Ultimately, the construction industry’s rapid expansion is responsible for creating a wealth of employment opportunities and there is an overwhelming sense of confidence amongst candidates. We expect to see market conditions continuing to improve as we head towards 2015, meaning contractors must examine their tact when it comes to competing for the best talent and retaining staff.