The number of specialist contractors struggling to recruit skilled labour is at its highest for 14 years according to the latest National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC) State of Trade Survey, following significant increases in both enquiries and orders in the first quarter of 2015.

The survey found that 47% of specialist contractors have experienced more difficulty in recruiting skilled labour this year compared to just 2% who have found it less difficult.

The balance of recruitment difficulty, which is the difference between those reporting more and less difficulty, has reached its highest level since 2001 and the main reason is the low number of applicants with the required skills.

As a result of this skills shortage, 28% of respondents were unable to bid for work which is higher than at any time since the recession.

With 65% of specialist contractors reporting an increase in enquiries, up 27% on the previous quarter, and 54% reporting an increase in orders, the industry is facing a skills crisis which will continue to impact on prices. A record 54% of respondents experienced an increase in tender prices last quarter, which has doubled since this time last year. Suppliers’ prices are also rising in line with demand with 82% of Specialist Contractors seeing higher prices from their suppliers for the second quarter in a row.

Any uncertainty in the run up to last week’s election appears not to have undermined the confidence of specialist contractors with 65% anticipating an increase in workload in the next quarter and a record 78% anticipating an increase over the coming year.

NSCC chief executive Suzannah Nichol said: “If we do not invest in recruiting and training people with the right skills, the industry will not be able to meet demand and this will impact on the wider UK economy.”