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Construction Industry Warning Over Post-Brexit Skills
There continues to be much debate over how Brexit will really impact the UK’s economy, and this is no different in the construction industry. A number of leading organisations in the sector recently came together to warn of the issues they will face when it comes to finding skilled workers after Brexit is completed.
Seven trade bodies – the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the Association for Consultancy & Engineering, Build UK, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, the Construction Products Association, the Home Builders Federation, and the National Federation of Builders – are all warning of an impending “cliff edge” with regards to skilled workers.
Losing access to skilled employees from the EU would only exacerbate the current skills shortage, they claim, and state that training a new workforce in the timescales isn’t practical.
The trade bodies have put together a Construction Industry Brexit Manifesto, which sets out what they believe are the sector’s responsibilities in relation to the construction workforce once the UK leaves the EU.
One of the key things they’ve highlighted is the lack of skilled workers currently available to meet demand, noting that while the industry accepts it needs to do more to train the next generation, this won’t happen overnight.
As such, there needs to be a transitional plan in place that enables organisations to continue to tap into labour markets in Europe post-Brexit, without facing unnecessary obstacles.
Economics director at the Construction Products Association Professor Noble Francis commented that being able to hire people with the right skills will be “absolutely critical for the whole construction supply chain in the next few years if it is to help the government achieve its aim of building more affordable housing and improving the UK’s infrastructure”.
With so many big infrastructure and construction projects underway or in the pipeline in the UK, there is likely to be even more need for industrial scaffolding services, which are an essential part of the mix in any large-scale building scheme.
Among the requirements highlighted in the manifesto were a need for the industry to provide better evidence over what its skills requirements are, as well as for the government to clarify the cut-off date for workers arriving from the EU being able to achieve settled status.
The industry bodies also want the government to agree to a transitional period of at least two years after Brexit, during which time a new migration visa system can be worked out and implemented.
Research published this month by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) revealed that if the UK simply extends its current non-EU visa system to apply to EU citizens after Brexit, just seven per cent of EU-born construction workers would be eligible to work in the UK.
The IPPR concluded that ending freedom of movement after Brexit would mean the construction sector is “severely impacted”, because of its reliance on EU workers to meet skills shortages.
Another issue in terms of labour for the sector is the fact that one million workers are set to retire within the next 20 years, which accounts for two fifths of the workforce, the institute revealed.