Warning over impending retirement of site managers
A Westcountry-based area director with construction firm Morgan Sindall has warned of an approaching skills gap on the UK's building sites as the current generation of senior site managers draws near retirement.
Chris Spear, area director for Morgan Sindall in the South West, has said that with many established site managers, who started their careers as apprentices, now nearing retirement age, the younger generation of mainly graduate recruits did not have the same breadth or depth of learned-on-the-job skills.
"It's going to be quite a problem. At the moment, the national industry has a workforce which suggests that one third (of senior staff) will retire in the next five years. If you walk onto a site you are beginning to see that," he said.
Having started as an apprentice joiner Chris spent the middle part of his career as a site manager and has now celebrated 40 years with Morgan Sindall.
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Chris, 64, oversees the firm's offices in Plymouth and Barnstaple which employ 100 people between them, with three times that number working as sub contractors.
In the Westcountry, the firm works on construction projects relating defence, health care and education which make up 80% of its turnover as well as providing property services.
Its portfolio includes the £6 million Holsworthy Agri-Business Centre, a £7 million special school at Bicton College and an Exmoor National Park visitor centre at Lynmouth.
His team was also behind the £45 million redevelopment of Bideford College – one of the largest scheme his office has handled, which completed in 2011 and helped to bolster work levels during the recession.
With activity levels now starting to rise, Chris said that projects for 2014 were "encouraging", saying: "There's a good flow of work in the £1 million or £2 million bracket. There will always be repair and maintenance requirements in defence and education. In terms of schools, they has also been a lot of investment in academies.
"We've also seen lots of interest in refurbishments. People are amazed at what you can do to an existing building. These projects are easier to fund and happen much faster than if you flatten something and start again."
But an upturn in activity levels is causing some issues for the sector, Chris said, with the industry facing issues such as a shortage of bricks as suppliers adjust to higher demand levels. "We're already seeing that impinge on the construction market through things like a shortage of bricks because they are not keeping stocks they don't need," he said.