Labour Shortage (Part 1 M&E Estimators)

Labour Shortages on Construction Sites have been extremely well documented over the past few years. What has not been as well documented is the shortage of Labour in the Commercial based roles within a Construction Company (Estimators, Quantity Surveyors, Contract Admin etc.)

As we are in the Mechanical and Electrical Disciplines we will be focusing on the shortages here but from speaking to Main Contractors, Project Managers and Quantity Surveyors over the last year this is an industry wide problem.

The recession has obviously played it’s part. As per the 2018 CIF – DIT/TU Report on construction trades and apprenticeship document there was 25,000 Apprentices in the Industry and an annual registration of 8,306 in 2006. As of 2018 there was only 3,000 new registrations annually. Given that most economists believe the recession ended in 2013 this report was 5 years after the recovery but the Apprentice enrollment had not even recovered to 50% of the 2006 numbers.

The CIF “Trades and Apprenticeship Survey 2020” which is the follow on from the 2018 document does not paint much of a better picture and although this focuses on the Wet Trades it can be assumed that the Building Services Apprenticeships are still not where they need to be to service the industry.

Why this drop off in Apprenticeships is important for Part 1 of this 2 Part Blog is because we will be focusing on Estimators and for this Blog we researched a number of M&E Companies over the past 3 Months and for the Estimating Roles 90% of them have confirmed that their M&E Estimators are Apprentices who have either come up through their own Apprentice Programme or another Contractors Programme. This practice has been normal for a long time now and for the Site Contracts Managers, Project Managers and Foreman this is historically considered by some to be a case of “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”. However what has to remembered is that if the Companies cannot Tender work then there is no site to go to at all so in this case the robbing of Peter is worth it!

The issue now is the Labour Shortage on site is so significant that taking an Apprentice who is coming towards the end of their Apprenticeship off site and into the office is proving to be a little more difficult. Construction Companies are having  to think more laterally. One way companies are trying is to up skill existing Junior Office Staff to get them to either become Junior Estimators or at least bolster the department when the Tender Capacity becomes too much for the existing department size.

This can bring its own concerns;

  • Someone coming in very green to the Estimating Department will take a lot of training from the Senior Estimators which in turn reduces the time the Estimators should be spending on the Tenders at hand.
  • The Senior Estimators at times can not see the Value of training some one who has no back ground at all in either the Trade or Estimating.
  • Due to the reasons above the Senior Estimators cannot (will not) commit the time required to train the new starts from their current position to Junior Estimators and so they are left to their own devices. After 1 or 2 years of no real interaction these Juniors become very expensive overheads who are not working effectively.

At ESTIMATING-ME we have acknowledged this problem and have put together a Training Programme for this situation. The Programme is designed to get Juniors out of the completely green zone and into an area where they actually can become a vital cog in the Estimating Department. They will still not be fully fledged Estimators when they finish the course but they will certainly be a much bigger help to the Estimating Department and Senior Estimators will be more willing to invest time once they see that the basis is there.

The course has been put together to be a 6 Month 1 Day a Week Programme however more recently we have been asked by some of our Clients to put together a Bespoke Company Specific Training Programme. This is something which can be discussed also.

For more details on the 6 Month Programme please send an email request to and if you are looking for a plan tailored for your company add some details and we can review.

We would like to finish on a comment from Richard Branson while speaking at the Pendulum Summit in 2018. “Companies are always worried about paying money to train their employees and they then move on to another Company. My bigger concern would be if you don’t train your employees and they stay!”

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