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Construction activity to fall by three per cent this year

Construction activity across the UK will shrink by 3% this year, and the industry will fail to see overall growth again until 2011, training body the Construction Skills Network predicts in its annual report published today.

The CSN annual report has also revised down the number of new workers the industry needs from 88,400 a year to 37,000 a year.

But CSN manager Sandra Lilley said the downturn in demand for staff and bleak workload predictions did not indicate an end to the skills crisis.

“Significant challenging times are ahead,” said Lilley.

“Despite this, we do need a flow of young people to enter the industry, particularly in the areas of higher skills need such as the professionals arena to help us cope with an ageing workforce and fewer young people entering the industry.

“A recession is not a time to decrease training levels, and if that happens, the long term skills deficit will be severe. These are issues we still face from the recession in the 1990s.”

With redundancies spreading across the industry – Thames Water and London Underground both announced job cuts last week – workers across the country staged unofficial strikes to protest against the use of foreign workers.

Around 400 civils contracting staff joined 900 mechanical and electrical contractors in a walkout at the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria on Monday.

They were supporting workers at the Lindsey Oil Refinery in North Lincolnshire, who were protesting at Italian contractor Irem’s use of Italian and Portuguese labour at the site .

There was also a walkout of 300 workers at Heysham nuclear power plant in Lancashire and between 200 and 300 people at Fiddler’s Ferry power station in Warrington.

Such infrastructure schemes were highlighted in the CSN report as likely to be the main providers of construction jobs between now and 2013.

CSN predicts that total construction output will only begin to grow again in 2011 at a rate of 1%, rising to 3% by 2013.

But the report predicts that the infrastructure sector will grow by an average of 6.8% every year for the next four years. This is due to demand from major projects such as the London 2012 Olympics, Crossrail and decommissioning work at Sellafield.

Despite this the growth in demand for civil engineers is nominal. The number of engineers employed is only expected to rise from 52,300 in 2009 to 52,620 in 2013.

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