A surge in demand for contractors shows no sign of slowing down.

Monday 18 March 2013

Contractors are continuing to see a surge in demand in 2013, as statistics reflect rising confidence and business development.

Scottish contractors have seen a rise in demand lately, with the Bank of Scotland’s Report on Jobs in February showing that contract and temporary vacancies have risen again, even though the rate of increase has slowed. Billings for temporary staff have also increased at a slower rate, although this was perhaps expected after they hit a two-year high in January.

In terms of availability, a decline in permanent staff was met with a small rise for contract and temporary workers, indicating a gap in the market of which contractors can take advantage.

Industries which are seeing the highest employment growth are those which have a tendency to nurture contract workers, with IT and computing ranking just ahead of engineering and construction at the top of the table for permanent vacancies. Although nursing and medical care were top of the temporary list, IT and engineering came second and third respectively, indicating a demand that shows no sign of slowing.

Scottish contractors in the oil and gas industry stand to gain, of course, from the investment and expansion of the oil and gas industries in the North Sea. Oil fields and new reserves off the Scottish coast account for the majority of the record investment the energy industry is currently enjoying.

Ernst and Young’s latest UK Oilfield Services Industry Review indicates that more than three-quarters of companies surveyed planned to expand their employee base over the next two years. Just over half, however, said that the biggest limiting factor restricting their growth was the difficulty of finding suitable candidates.

This supports the recent findings of the Oil and Gas Workforce Survey from OilCareers and Air Energi, which said that skills shortages were among the biggest threats to the industry.

Ernst and Young also pointed out that much of the North Sea oil infrastructure is maturing to the point where opportunities will open for upgrades, modifications and brownfield developments, while nine out of ten offshore installations will need to be brought onto dry land for re-use or recycling.

Where permanent staff cannot be found, contract workers with specialist expertise are in prime position to take advantage.

Contract workers in the construction and property industries will also be heartened by the news that activity in the commercial property market is on the rise. Savills’ Commercial Development Activity Report was published last week, bringing with it news that commercial activity in the UK expanded at the fastest rate for four months.

Activity rose in both public and private sectors, suggesting that new contracts could begin to appear as the public sector returns to growth.

Private new builds saw a net balance increase of 15.3 per cent.

Crucially, the report records positive sentiments within the industry which suggested that the situation was likely to improve over the coming months. Whether the government’s Funding for Lending scheme will play a role in further expansion remains to be seen.

With the Budget looming over the coming week, uncertainty is rife about the future of the economy, but contractors should be reassured that they are in a strong position indeed.

By Victoria McDonnell

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