Where Has All The Good Labour Gone?
And where are all the top dogs?
And where are all the top dogs?
No, this isn’t an ode to Bonnie Tyler. Nor is it a jolly piece of writing. Some, rightly, would call it a rant. Because the labour market is going to <insert your choice of crazily negative word here>.
That’s according to our Interior Consultant, Dan Carter.
Dan used to be a labourer when he was a lad. For £150, he was lugging scaffolding around and working up a proper sweat. Fast forward “a few” years; you’re lucky if you can get someone to make a brew for £150.
The market, as he puts it, is truly bonkers.
Can The Market Carry On Paying More For Labour?
Surely not. But there are no signs of it slowing down any time soon, which has created a problem.
Because of the hyperinflation of labour costs, white-collar and blue-collar earnings are starting to skew towards the latter. Not that it isn’t hard work, but you don’t put on a shirt every day, take your exams and climb the corporate ladder to earn less than you would if you didn’t.
“Let’s say, for instance, a Site Manager in the North West is looking at £40k, at a push 45, for their take-home pay, depending on experience. Yet I’ve spoken to candidates who have just passed their SMSTS, with no previous experience, on £250 per day. That’s £65k per year before tax. In the short term, what’s the point when you earn less?”
His point doesn’t stop there either.
“Take Fire Door Installers. I had a job for a reputable company, looking for BM Trada or FIRAS qualified installers. I couldn’t find one that would be suitable. Why? Standard joiners we’re getting almost £400 per day for fitting them (the bulk of this, “remedial work”, how ironic?)”.
The irony isn’t lost on those in the white collars.
The Impact On Labour Availability Via COVID
When we thought we were out of the woods, the ramifications of lockdown(s) start to become apparent, as Dan points out:
“In my opinion, the halt of construction during Covid caused mass panic. A lot of employees were let go due to uncertainty. When construction finally reopened six months later, the number of unfinished projects and lack of workers to complete them posed a problem. It meant that the individuals had more power to control their wage, as they knew their skills were in demand”.
And fair play. Take what you can get. But chuck in the curveball to end all curveballs, that being Brexit, the issue only multiplies in its complexity. Skilled labourers from Europe have started saying their farewells, which means even less talent in the pool, equalling higher demand for an already popular commodity.
Covid, Brexit, and don’t forget, a real lack of skilled young, available talent.
Labour Apprenticeships. Or Lack Of.
Young people are becoming less aware of the available opportunities, distracted by alternative career paths in digital and social. STEM has been pushed prior, but maybe it’s time to also look for the talent that rolls its sleeves up and wants to graft.
The thought of physically draining work can be daunting for a lot of these youngsters, but if they’re unaware of the rewards (BIG rewards), no wonder interest is low.
“With the lack of apprenticeships, I saw a post on LinkedIn that hit the nail on the head. Most of the world is digital, meaning careers and salaries are made behind a screen rather than onsite. I suppose the society we live in now promotes earning money through social, which isn’t bad, by the way.
But I genuinely don’t remember the last time I saw an apprenticeship aimed at filling the labour market gap”.
Lastly, a Rant About Grants
Grants, Dan says, are one of the main reasons for the imbalance. No one will dispute that they were there in a time of need, but let’s be honest, how many have gone towards feeding the family and how many towards extending the house/new car/a holiday in 2024?
Some people have even claimed these grants regardless and downed tools for six months, a sabbatical of sorts. Their purpose was lost on some.
So, what’s next in the labour market?
If you combine all of the above WITH the shortage of materials, the short term looks bleak. It’s a case of getting used to it, sticking out for the long term or, for some, leaving construction and finding a new industry.
If there were such a thing as a crystal ball, it’d be murky. And there are also other elements at work that are making it even trickier to see ahead.