AN extra 26,250 construction workers will be needed in Scotland by the end of 2025, as the sector bounces back from the pandemic effects and undertakes huge infrastructure projects, a study reveals.

The report by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), published today, calculates the number of new workers needed between the end of last year and the close of 2025.

This calculation takes into account anticipated growth in the workforce, which is projected by the study to rise from an estimated 226,100 at the end of last year to around 241,800 by the end of 2025, and the need to offset the effect of people leaving the sector through the likes of retirement.

The Scottish construction sector workforce was around 240,000 at the end of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit, CITB noted.

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The CITB study estimates that the Scottish construction sector will grow at an average annual rate of 4.1 per cent over the five years to the end of 2025, recovering to pre-pandemic output levels by 2023.

CITB said: “2020 has been a challenging year for construction in Scotland, with annual output dropping by around 13% when compared to 2019. However, recent economic index data published by the Scottish Government highlights the strong pick-up of construction work in the second half of 2020, which we expect to develop into a steady recovery of output in 2021.”

It added that major projects such as wind-farm developments in the Firth of Forth, the Edinburgh tram extension, a £3.6 billion Scottish Water investment programme, and the first Moray Firth wind turbines would drive strong average annual output growth in the infrastructure sub-sector of 4.7% between the end of 2020 and 2025. CITB added that private housing was also expected to do well, with average annual output growth of 6.3%.

However, CITB cautioned that it was “not all good news”.

It said the commercial sector “faces near-term risks due to a reduced demand for office use and also retail space as more shopping goes online, requiring warehouses”.

Ian Hughes, CITB engagement director for Scotland, said: “Scottish construction’s return to solid growth with new job opportunities shows the fortitude and adaptability of the sector through unprecedented times.

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“CITB is supporting construction and working with the Scottish Government and further education providers to meet the skills needs ahead, particularly regarding the challenges of net zero, building safety and digital technologies.”

Separately, recruitment company Hays yesterday highlighted skills shortages across a range of construction sector jobs in Scotland, including time-served joiners and electricians, as it revealed a leap in demand for workers in the sector from employers in the last 12 weeks. It also highlighted the part played by major infrastructure projects in fuelling demand for construction workers.

Hays reported that permanent job registrations in the construction and property sector in Scotland were in the last 12 weeks up by more than 59% on the preceding 12 weeks.

It added that temporary job registrations had increased by more than 42% over the same period.

This registration measure covers instances where an employer contacts Hays with a single vacancy or multiple openings and asks the recruitment company to fill it or them.

Hays said: “The surge is due to the £33bn of infrastructure investment planning and capital spending in Scotland, backed by government pipelines, which will bring a huge boost to Scotland’s construction sector.”

Claire Sheerin, director of Hays’ construction and property division in Scotland, said: “The demand we’re seeing is in line with or, in many areas, ahead of pre-pandemic levels, leading to confidence about the future of this sector for 2021 and beyond.

“However, as a result, we’re witnessing skills shortages across a broad spectrum of construction jobs, notably time-served joiners, quantity surveyors, electricians and skilled trades. Civil engineers and landscape architects are also in demand following the investment in civil infrastructure projects.”

Ms Sheerin flagged the importance of retraining in addressing skills gaps, but emphasised this would take time.

She said: “Many clients are struggling to attract the level of skill they require for their projects and are thinking about how they can upskill or retrain others. Retraining will feature highly in the future of Scotland’s construction sector, but it’s certainly not a short-term fix.”

Ms Sheerin added: “Pragmatic approaches such as offering the longest-term contracts possible is one sure way to help attract the best talent. Planning is also [being] cited as critical by many contractors within the industry over the following months, as knowing well in advance what your key project milestones are will allow you to plan your resources more effectively.”