NFRC News Detail

Roofing and cladding skill shortages are a ticking time bomb, says NFRC

by Catherine Oxley | Nov 03, 2021

NFRC (National Federation of Roofing Contractors) is warning of a ticking roofing and cladding skills time bomb as research from Glenigan shows that over three-quarters of roofing and cladding contractors (77 per cent) reported difficulties recruiting suitable labour in the third quarter of the year. 

Slaters and tilers were the roles in most demand by contractors, according to the NFRC/Glenigan State of the Roofing Industry Survey, reflecting the booming UK new build housing market, but a number of flat roofing roles such as in the built-up flat roofing and single ply discipline were also reported as being difficult to find. Further to this, just under one in ten NFRC members reported difficulties recruiting cladders, which could have an impact on the government's £5bn cladding remediation scheme.
Roofing contractors have seen the cost of labour go up as a result, with just over half of roofing companies reporting an increase (57 per cent) on this time last year. Alongside this, 92 per cent of roofers have seen material prices rise. 

The Q3 State of the Roofing Industry also found that:

  • A net balance of 40 per cent of roofing contractors reported growing workloads, down from 54 per cent in the previous quarter.
  • A balance of 28 per cent of members reported higher enquiries.
  • Employment levels grew, with 12 per cent of contractors reporting a growing headcount.
  • The North of England and Scotland saw the highest levels of growth, with Wales being the only part of the UK that saw workloads and enquiries fall on the previous quarter.
  • Over three quarters (77 per cent) of roofing firms reported a deterioration of material availability over the quarter, with 31 per cent reporting shortages of 'all materials'.
  • 92 per cent of roofing contractors reported a rise in material prices.
  • 70 per cent of roofers increased their tender prices over the period.
  • Ahead of COP26, just under half (48 per cent) of roofing contractors were developing or considering developing a net-zero strategy.

Commenting on the research, NFRC's Head of Policy, Philip Campbell said:

"The headlines recently have been focused, rightly, on HGV driver shortages, but the next ticking skills time bomb is construction skill shortages, particularly in roofing. We have seen skill shortages become a big concern for roofing contractors throughout this year, and our most recent survey found that three-quarters of our members are now having recruitment difficulties on all sorts of roles from roof slaters and tilers to cladders.

"The Chancellor this week confirmed multi-billion-pound funding commitments for housing, levelling up, and cladding remediation, but the government may fall short on these targets if the construction skills aren't there to deliver. We saw what happened with the Green Homes Grant when government ambition and supply chain capacity aren't aligned.

"More generally, whilst it was encouraging to see the roofing and cladding industry grow again this quarter, we saw the rate of growth slow, particularly in the domestic, repair, maintenance, and improvement sector, which could be the result of ongoing material and skill shortages. Roofers continue to remain optimistic for the future, however."

Glenigan's Economics Director, Allan Wilén said:

"Roofing contractors' workload continued to recover strongly during the third quarter, and contractors anticipate a broadening in growth over the next twelve months. The rise in workload has been accompanied by widespread disruption to material availability and higher material costs, pressures that are now feeding through as a rise in contractors' tender prices."

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