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Infrastructure work is boosting job prospects and housing construction starts are ramping up in Wales but the impact is proving slow to materialise for Welsh construction industry.

The underlying value of construction project starts in Wales fell by 3% in 2017 according to Glenigan’s market analysis but a significant swing upwards is not expected this year, despite a number of positive factors.

Glenigan economics director Allan Wilen said: “We anticipate a partial recovery in project starts during 2018, led by strengthening in public sector and infrastructure projects with continued support from the private housing sector but not at sufficient level to push up overall activity.”

Civil engineering jobs boost Earlier this year, an Industry Insights report from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) forecast that construction employment in Wales would be the highest in the UK. The CITB predicts that an extra 12,500 new jobs will be created by 2022 with strong demand for bricklayers, carpenters, civil engineers and surveyors, the Welsh construction workforce is predicted to grow to 121,500 by 2022 with infrastructure driving jobs growth due to major schemes including the Wylfa Newydd nuclear project, the M4 relief road and the South Wales Metro. “The rise in infrastructure output has led to Wales having a significantly different construction industry structure than the UK average,” said the CITB in its report. Orders slowing Contracts for many major infrastructure work that are creating jobs have already been awarded, such as the £1 billion M4 scheme and the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. Both schemes were let in 2015 and Glenigan’s construction research shows that in the 12 months to Q1 2018 the total value of contract awards in Wales actually fell back by a quarter to £2.1 billion. This research, which only covers projects valued at £250,000 or more, showed that only 17% of awards by value were for civil engineering. The single largest contract award was a £350 million deal to Laing O’Rourke for a Specialist and Critical Care Centre in Llanfrechfa, which is the contractor’s only major deal in Wales. Top Welsh contractors The top 10 only includes contractors with three or more awards in the past year and is led by CRH, which owns Alun Griffiths, Farrans and Tarmac and has won £139 million-worth of work. The biggest deal in this haul was Abergavenny-based Alun Griffths’ job on the £70 million Worcester Southern Link Road, but national contractors make up the bulk of the top 10. The only local firms in the Welsh top 10 are WRW from Llanelli and Neath-based Hale Construction, which specialises in housing and commercial work. Hale owns timber frame manufacturer Seven Oaks and investing £400,000 to expand production this year to around 1,200 units. Seven Oaks chairman Jonathan Hale said: “We have spent a long time building up our staff expertise and investing in the right equipment to produce Triso-warm frames. Now the time is right to take what we’ve achieved and significantly increase our output.” While infrastructure has boosted existing jobs in Wales, the CITB predicts housing to be another growth area after the Welsh government set a target of building 20,000 new affordable homes by 2021. In 2017, Wales experienced one of the strongest rises in registrations for new homes in the UK with an increase of 18% to 5,470 units according to the National House-Building Council. This will help growth but Glenigan expects weakness in other areas is expected to hold back overall construction projects starts in 2018.  

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