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May 11, 2017

Is building booming in Bristol? You bet!


Earlier this year, figures from the Construction Industry Training Board forecast that annual growth in the South West during the period up to 2021 would reach 3.1% and estimated the creation of circa 20,000 new jobs in the region.

Let’s put those figures in context: for the UK as a whole, the growth forecast is 1.7%. After some healthy years, a national slowdown is expected as a result of Brexit, yet in 2016, almost 400 new construction companies started trading in Bristol.  This area is bucking the trend.

Why? Well, a whole number of factors contribute to the sector’s health, but amongst them are key projects like Hinckley and MetroWest. Add to that the Bristol Arena, plans to relocate army bases from Germany to Salisbury Plain, road upgrades, and the creation of Garden Villages and new towns, and you begin to get a feel for the demands all this activity will put on the labour force. It’s a great time to get in as an apprentice, and all trades –  bricklayers, carpenters, plasterers, plumbers and electricians – are bound to be in demand.

While we’re revelling in the boom time, we should perhaps add a note of caution. Is this just a peak to be followed by a trough? Will the good times depart in a few years leaving the sector struggling? Of course, no one can be sure, but we think not. What seems to be happening is a move away from the high development cost base of the South East. With a great city like Bristol on the doorstep of fabulous countryside, relatively easy access to Devon, Cornwall and South Wales, we’re well placed to make the best of it. Furthermore, the risks are spread with all parts of the sector experiencing the good times. Education projects, commercial, civic, military, industrial and residential specialists are all reporting strong order books and enquiries.

Yes, there are challenges for the sector – a weaker pound is pushing up costs for one – and there is a risk that the region could be a victim of its own success, with too many projects choking each other as they compete for labour or snarl up an already stretched transport infrastructure.  But surely this region has the attitude and will to enable it to solve these issues and become a beacon of a healthy progressive and innovative economy.

We know construction is booming. In our line of work, we see it every day. And we’re looking forward, over the next few years, to being able to match more and more candidates with the right skills to rewarding opportunities. We might not be getting our hands dirty on site, but we’re still doing our bit to build a better Bristol.

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