Construction industry demands continued access to EU skills

Trade bodies in the UK have united to call for a continued flow of EU workers into the country after Brexit. Concerns over a skilled labour shortage coincide with a housing shortage in the UK.

UK construction industry calls for flow of EU migrant workers
For the first time, the UK’s seven leading construction trade bodies have united to warn ministers that the industry must continue to have access to foreign skills after Brexit if the government’s ambitious plans on infrastructure and house-building are to be met.

EU expats needed for foreseeable future

Publishing the ‘Construction Industry Brexit Manifesto’, the trade bodies say that, despite efforts to train more indigenous workers, there will still be a need for a “significant” number of skilled worker from the EU for the foreseeable future.The manifesto calls for a two-year Brexit transitional period offering “a clear path to settled status” not only for EU workers who are already employed in Britain, but for those who arrive in the country during the transitional period.After that transitional period, the manifesto says there should be a migration system under which companies would be able to hire foreign workers in key occupations that are in short supply, rather than, as at present, a system based on arbitrary thresholds determined by skill levels or income.
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House building crisis reliant on workers through migration

It says the government’s new target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the middle of the 2020s will not be achievable without EU workers, despite the fact the industry is committed to recruiting and training additional UK workers, which, the manifesto says, will take time to achieve.The manifesto has the backing of the Federation of Master Builders, the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, Build UK, the Civil Engineering Contractors’ Association, the Construction Products Association, the Home Builders Federation, and the National Federation of Builders.Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said, “The construction industry has been criticised in the past for being too disparate but it has come together here with one voice and set of clear messages.“We know we need to step up as an industry and train more home-grown talent but we also have to be realistic about the future. There will continue to be some ongoing need for migrant workers and our post-Brexit migration rules will need to be fit for purpose.”

Skilled worker shortage poorly timed

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders, said, “With the country facing a shortage of skilled workers and the most acute housing crisis in living memory, the government needs to provide certainty to existing EU workers in the UK and enable construction SMEs to attract more home-grown talent into the industry.”John Slaughter, director of external affairs at the Home Builders Federation, added, “Companies are building on their existing investment through the successful work of the CITB-supported Home Building Skills Partnership and are committed to doing even more, but to deliver the national social and economic necessity of an improved housing supply we will also continue to need access to foreign workers under a manageable migration system.”A Home Office spokesman said the government would put a post-Brexit immigration system in place that “works in the best interests of the whole of the UK”. He added, “We are carefully considering the options for the future immigration system and will set out our plans shortly.“We have already been clear there will be an implementation period after we leave the EU to avoid a cliff edge for businesses and that EU citizens already working in the UK will be able to apply for settled status so they can stay.”For related news and features, visit our Brexit section. Look out for the launch of 2018's Relocate Awards, entries open in January.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory

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