THE Scottish construction industry is facing a shortfall of around 6,400 workers, new research has found, with skills shortage most acute in the Highlands and Islands and south-east of the country.

The findings are contained in a report by the Construction Industry Training Board, which it billed as the most wide-ranging regional skills mapping exercise for construction in Scotland.

The board found the industry will need 247,400 workers in Scotland this year when the pipeline of projects is taken into account. However the current workforce numbers 241,000, some three per cent short of potential requirements.

Completed amid a period of strong activity in sectors such as housebuilding, the report reveals marked variations between labour market conditions in different areas of the country.

It found shortfalls of 12,950 and 12,100 workers with the skills required in the Highland and Islands and South East Scotland respectively.

The number of staff available exceeded the demand for labour by 14,550 in Lanarkshire and by 800 in the Glasgow and West area.

Noting that construction projects vary in length, the board said the workforce had developed to be adaptable and when required highly mobile. Labour is often 'imported' for large projects, particularly in more rural areas.

However, the board wants skills plans developed for each of the seven regions it identified.

Improved scheduling of projects could help address potential skills shortages.

In terms of occupational groups, the biggest shortages are in respect of painting and decorating and plumbing, heating, ventilation and air conditioning workers.

The board said there was an ongoing need to replace members of the construction workforce. It noted: “Attracting both young people and mature adults is vital both as apprenticeships and career changers.”