How Recruiters can Survive a Shortage of Construction Workers

Construction workers

These are uncertain times for the whole of the UK economy, but the construction industry finds itself in a more vulnerable position than most and many commentators are predicting a shortage of skilled construction workers will begin to bite in the near future. This will obviously present some challenges for recruiters who serve the construction industry.

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Reasons for the predicted shortage of construction workers


EU nationals make up 8% of the UK’s construction workers, and 28% of those working in London. Uncertainty surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU has caused many to consider leaving already and a mass exodus of EU workers is likely to cause serious problems, at least in the short term.

Recovery from Recession

During the 2008-2009 recession, huge numbers of veteran construction workers were laid off or otherwise left the industry. A decade later, with employment in the construction industry showing a 10-year high, the industry is still dealing with the loss of those veteran workers, as new workers coming in often lack the necessary skills.

An aging workforce

In a pattern repeated in all sectors across the UK economy, the average age of workers is increasing and with large numbers due to retire shortly, still more veteran workers and their valuable skills will no longer be available.

It has been estimated that 168,500 new skilled construction workers will be required over the next five years. 

The potential consequences for recruiters

Where there is a shortage of skilled workers, market forces will drive pay rates up, and average pay rates for construction workers have already increased by 9% since 2017. Skilled construction workers are aware that they are in demand, and there is a danger that recruiters could get caught up in competition for workers which would allow costs to spiral and margins to fall.

How can recruiters attract and retain skilled construction workers in this environment?

One reason costs can be allowed to spiral in this situation is that everyone is concentrating on the pay rate, as the contractor’s only reason for choosing a particular role, client or recruiter. The truth is that retention is about value, not necessarily just about money. The value you’re offering the contractor includes how the contractor is treated, as well as any other additional benefits they receive. It’s therefore possible to offer loads of additional value, without increasing the cost of hiring contractors.

Add value to attract workers

Contractors communicate all the time, both while working together and through various online platforms, so getting all of these things right will inevitably make it easier to recruit and retain skilled construction workers.

Get the basics right

The value of getting the simple things right is difficult to overstate. When we ask contractors about the stresses of contracting, unpredictable or incorrect payments are always at the top of the list. Making sure they don’t have to worry about compliance or unexpected tax bills will also go a long way to securing their loyalty.

One way to achieve this is to engage with specialists like Orange Genie, who have the expertise to ensure your workers get the right advice, and the experience and infrastructure to make sure they’re always paid correctly and on time.

Help workers to look after themselves

If you want to add something in the “above and beyond” column, you can’t go wrong with health benefits. It’s difficult to put a price on your health, so you’ll be moving the contractor away from a “transactional” mindset. There’s also an obvious benefit for you and your clients in keeping your workforce healthy, and getting sick workers back on site as soon as possible.

For example, our benefits and rewards platform, Orange Genie Edge, includes a number of medical and support services to help our workers care for themselves and their families, as well as lifestyle tools aimed at improving general health and wellbeing. These have proved to be extremely effective in driving contractor engagement and retention and they’re available at no cost to the contractor or recruiter.

 Make sure your workers feel valued

Where workers feel like they have a dispassionate, “purely business” relationship with a recruiter, it will be much easier for them to make the dispassionate, business decision to follow a higher pay rate to a competitor’s project. Emotional or personal connections are much more difficult to break, and where workers feel like they’re well treated and valued they’re more likely to stick around, and to recommend you to colleagues and friends.

One way to demonstrate that your workers are valued is to offer well-chosen benefits that make a real difference to their lives. For example, Orange Genie Edge contains services to help their money go further, help them care for themselves and their families, and to help them improve their general wellbeing and get more out of life.

Combine this with the care taken to ensure they get the right advice, and to ensure correct and predictable payments, and you become a very attractive prospect indeed, and at no extra cost.

If you have any questions or if we can help in any way, please contact our expert team on 01296 468 483 or email



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