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Skills warning as Midlands construction agency marks 10th birthday

PSR Solutions, based in Dunston, Staffordshire, predicted the dwindling talent pool as it celebrated the milestone with a special celebration for staff.

Managing director James Sanders, who set up PSR Solutions with business development director Mark Palmer in 2005, said: “The construction industry is entering a period where it will face a massive skills shortage.

“The talent pool has shrunk dramatically, so the best candidate’s salaries are being driven up, and in turn we’re having to work much harder to find people, who are then like gold dust.”

But this latest challenge is unlikely to faze Sanders and Palmer, who described how they were able to turn the recession to their advantage: “Rather than retrench when the economic downturn hit the building sector in 2008,” said Palmer, “we actually grew the business and secured most of the work that was still out there.

“In good times, construction companies might use 10 recruitment agencies to find 100 people. When times are hard, they only need one agency to find 10 people. We were that agency.

“And because we were there in the downturn, we were well-placed to hit the ground running again when the industry – always a reliable barometer for the economy – began to pick-up, so we’re now enjoying a bigger slice of the pie.”

Now at & lsquo;full steam ahead’, according to Sanders, PSR is looking to recruit for itself, and add to its 50 staff, 35 of whom are in Staffordshire. There are another 15 in a London office that opened in 2010 and which is run by Rob Burnham and Steven Ware, a recruiter with 35 years’ experience and co-founder of recruitment agency Hill McGlynn, where he gave Sanders and Palmer their first jobs. 

In the next 10 years the pair plan to have 150 staff in six offices, including in Dubai, and to have increased gross profit margin from today’s &pound5m to &pound20m. And having reached &pound5m in four years – 12 months ahead of their five-year business plan prediction – they are confident of achieving their goals.

“We can’t wait for the next 10 years,” said Sanders. “We’ve achieved what we have by doing things quietly and operating under the radar, but now that we’re the Midlands’ largest construction industry recruiter, people are starting to take notice. The London office will grow quickly, and we’ll look to establish ourselves across the UK.”

PSR Solutions, whose clients include Galliford Try, Willmott Dixon, Barratt Homes and Wates, specialises in finding and placing candidates in the &pound30k to &pound100k salary bracket – from site engineers to project director – and has recruited, often as sole provider, for some of the Midlands’ highest profile construction projects, including the ongoing remodelling of Birmingham’s New Street Station the city’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and its iconic retail, leisure and living space, The Mailbox. 

Recruiting for these and other projects is down to what Palmer calls & lsquo;the old ways’: “It’s the traditional techniques that are the most important tried and trusted principles around doing the job properly, really getting to know clients and their businesses, listening to them, building solid relationships, doing the same with candidates, and ultimately having both clients and candidates trust us.”

Adhering to the old ways, though, does not mean PSR Solutions is not alive to the possibilities offered by social media, and in particular LinkedIn.

“The recruitment sector has been gripped by social media in the past five years,” said Palmer, “and LinkedIn posed a huge threat to us, because clients all of a sudden had instant access to a huge talent pool. But we’ve embraced it, and combine its usefulness with our solid and traditional way of doing things, because being successful recruiters is still all about relationships, and you can’t have proper relationships via LinkedIn alone.”

A second, more recent threat, has seen some construction companies take the recruitment function in-house, but Sanders and Palmer have a simple, robust response: “What we do simply has to be better than their in-house model, and the contacts, connections and reputation we’ve worked hard to establish will, we believe, serve us well when we go head-to-head with them.”

Roll-on 2025.

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