The construction sector should be “much more ambitious” in the training and recruitment of UK workers following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, industry bodies have admitted.
In the midst of a well-publicised skills shortage nationwide, seven industry bodies including the Federation of Master Builders have published what they are calling a Construction Industry Brexit Manifesto which lays out a number of sector and government recommendations for the post-EU landscape.
In the fourth section of the manifesto, the organisations outline how the industry needs to “greatly reduce” its reliance on workers from overseas while stating that the current record-high levels of employment were a factor in them not being able to recruit enough British workers.
It reads: “The industry needs to step up and be much more ambitious in terms of its plans to recruit and train many more UK workers than it does currently. In the longer term, the construction industry needs to greatly reduce its reliance on migrant labour.
“However, it takes at least two to three years to train most on-site tradespeople and a minimum of seven years to train built environment professionals. As such, and given the extent of the current skills shortage and record high employment levels, in the short-to-medium term it will not be possible to recruit the people we need without ongoing access to significant levels of EU migrant labour.”
Industry bosses also conceded that the sector needed to provide the government with far greater understanding on how much migrant labour currently operates in the UK construction industry. Though they pointed to Labour Force Survey statistics which suggest 12.6% of construction workers were born outside of the UK and 5.7% were born in EU accession countries (Eastern European countries that joined after 2004).
“The construction sector understands that the government needs greater clarity from the industry regarding what its skills requirements are in terms of EU migrant labour,” the report said.
“This requires a stronger evidence base, and a much clearer understanding of how migrant labour currently enters and exits the UK construction industry. The construction industry is keen to work together to develop a credible evidence base. CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) is engaging in extensive research to map future skills need by occupation, the extent to which this can be met from within the UK workforce and training capacity and the remaining ongoing requirement for migrant workers.”
Once this additional research is carried out, the report suggests: “The construction sector should agree what it can realistically achieve in terms of increased training and recruitment of homegrown workers over the next five years.”
The construction sector employs around three million people across 300,000 businesses; accounting for around 7% of GDP annually.
Industry experts also called for EU workers to have the right to “settled status” in the UK after Brexit and insisted that the transition period for leaving the political bloc should be settled as soon as possible and last for “at least” two years.
To read the full manifesto, simply visit this page.
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