Why the future looks bright for plant hire

Dave Irons of Embark Recruitment, who specialise in recruiting for the tool and plant hire sector, evaluates the industry’s prospects for the next 12 months and reveals to Project Plant why he is optimistic.

Dave Irons
Dave Irons
THE well documented woes of the construction industry during the recession have undoubtedly had a knock-on effect upon many other industrial sectors, including my own – tool and plant hire.
With smaller construction companies struggling to survive, many independent hire outlets have closed or have been taken over by larger companies during the economic downturn.
However, the signs for 2014 look encouraging for construction and its associated sectors.
Trends in recruitment are often a significant indicator of an industry’s prospects, and the results of our recent survey of over 1,000 professionals working in tool and plant hire supports the view that this year is likely to see much-needed growth within the industry.
The survey, carried out by Embark Recruitment canvassed company MDs, finance directors and senior managers about how their businesses had performed over the previous 12 months.
More significantly, it also asked for predictions about future performance. The results were highly encouraging; both in their positivity and consistency of opinion.
The belief that 2013 marked a key turning point for the plant hire industry (amongst others) was borne out by the fact that over three quarters of companies reported significant or above average growth within the turnover of their business from the previous year. Encouragingly, nobody reported a significant fall in turnover.
The increase in turnover was also reflected in the number of jobs created during the past 12 months.
A high demand for personnel is always an encouraging sign and as recruiters, we have noticed a definite upsurge in competition for key workers.
In the survey, just over 40% of companies reported that they had expanded their workforce as well as taking on new staff to replace employees who had retired or moved on.
This replaces the practice of amalgamating positions when a member of staff left, reducing hours or simply leaving a position unfilled.
Now, vacant posts are being rapidly re-advertised and in many cases, companies are actively expanding their staff numbers to come in with new contracts.
Furthermore, predictions for the next 12-18 months are similarly positive in tone with 59% predicting an overall rise in staff numbers, including 8% expecting a ‘significant’ rise in staff numbers.
Construction and engineering projects such as HS2 and alternative energy sourcing as well as increased housing construction all bode well for the industry.
In fact, 97% of those questioned said that they expected their overall turnover to increase over the coming year, with almost a third predicting ‘significant’ growth over the next 12 months.
This optimism corresponds with recent Bank of England forecasts and the recent Autumn Statement.
Many companies are buoyed by the growth in confidence and actual orders over the past year, and are reflecting this into their growth plans for the coming period.
Nobody knows what the coming months will hold and the recovery is not expected to be plain sailing, but companies from the tool hire and construction industry seem keen to make hay while the sun shines.
These positive trends in staff recruitment are a key indicator that the future performance of the sector looks highly promising.
However, one point to bear in mind is that with expectation this high within the industry, skills shortages could become a factor in hampering growth.
In fact, 41% said that they are already experiencing some difficulty in filling skilled positions, whilst 34% say that it is normally a problem to find the right person.
If growth continues as predicted, recruiting the right people for key positions could become increasingly difficult.
However, many would say that this is a small price to pay for increased turnover, profitable companies and a rejuvenated industry.
Dave Irons is a Director of Embark Recruitment (www.embarkrecruitment.co.uk) who specialise in recruitment for the tool and plant hire industry across the UK. David has worked in recruitment for this sector for over a decade.