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Survey shows skills shortage in more than half of firms

MORE THAN half of civil engineering firms in the UK are struggling to find enough staff, according to the latest Construction Confederation survey of members.

The survey, which plots industry trends in the last quarter, shows that 53 per cent of construction firms were experiencing problems in securing skilled civil engineering operatives. In addition, 39 per cent were struggling to find general civil engineering operatives.

However, Construction Confederation chief executive Jennie Price rejected claims that staff shortages were becoming critical, as she said the survey did not reflect the long term prospects of the industry.

'Only 34 per cent of companies have been working to full capacity, which affects staffing levels, ' she said, adding that many companies have been waiting to hear the Government's announcement on the ten year transport plan.

'Up to now road spending has been in decline, so has not been attracting employees, ' she said, pointing out that she was confident the situation would significantly change.

Results

Kvaerner

STRONG EMPHASIS on developing internal and external partnering arrangements helped Kvaerner double its first half profits, according to results published on Tuesday.

First half pre-tax profits increased to £18.4M from the £9M reported in the first half of 1999. Turnover was up from £621M to £641M, and margins doubled from 1.4 to 2.8 per cent.

Kvaerner Construction deputy chief executive Robert Wallace said the company had developed a strong reputaion as a design and build contractor.

'Because of our reputation we can get to the top table and not need to take an equity stake in PFI projects, ' he said.

Balfour Beatty

BALFOUR BEATTY'S half year results, published last week, reflected the contractor's growing emphasis on higher margin contracting, with profits from civil engineering increasing 11 per cent to £10M.

'We have spent time convincing people here that we are running a business, not a collection of projects. I am not interested in simply increasing turnover. I need reliable profits as well.

Below three per cent margins we now look very seriously at that business, ' said chief executive Mike Welton.

Group pre-tax profits were up from £16M to £35M and were further boosted to £47M by exceptional profits from the sale of non-core cable businesses.

Group turnover was up from £1.1bn to £1.2bn.

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