A survey of over 350 contractors by ECIC, a specialist insurer for the contracting sector, has underlined the immense pressure the sector is under to fill skills shortages and the increasing reliance on sub-contractors to fill the gap.

However, industry initiatives to tackle the skills shortage and encourage young people to join the sector appear to be working, with almost a third of the contractors surveyed intending to take on more apprentices in the next year.

In its survey, ECIC found that:

30% of contractors said their business has been quite seriously impacted by skills shortages. 44% have been marginally impacted in some way and 4% severely impacted

25% of respondents are going to use more labour only sub-contractors in the next year, and 31% will use more bona fide sub-contractors

32% of the contractors surveyed plan to take on more apprentices in the next year.

Richard Forrest Smith, chief executive of ECIC, said: “It’s no secret that the contracting sector, including the UK’s engineering services sector which is our key focus at ECIC, is facing a serious skills shortage, which is increasing dependence on subcontractors.

“It’s vital main contractors create an embedded approach to health and safety among the entire workforce, from apprentices through to highly skilled subcontractors. The alternative is greater risk of accidents on site, leading potentially to liability claims, prosecutions, heavy fines and even possibly a jail sentence.”