FMB calls on political parties to recognise importance of migrant labour to the construction sector

The next Government must ensure the construction sector has enough skilled workers post-Brexit or its housing and infrastructure manifesto pledges will be redundant, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has warned.

Its Programme for Government, launched the day before Parliament is dissolved for the General Election, called on all major political parties to recognise the importance of migrant labour to the construction sector.

“The UK construction sector’s demand for skilled migrant workers from the EU and beyond cannot be overstated,” said Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB.

Non-UK construction workers constitute almost half of the industry’s workforce in the capital said Berry and 60% of small construction firms are already having trouble hiring bricklayers.

“That’s before the UK abandons the free movement of people,” said Berry. “If the next Government implements an inflexible immigration system that hinders the ability of talented foreign construction workers from making their way to the UK, any manifesto pledges relating to the delivery of housing and infrastructure will be rendered meaningless.”

The most sustainable solution to the chronic skills shortage is for employers to recruit and train more home-grown talent and to focus on increasing the quality and duration of construction apprenticeships, he added.

“Giving technical and academic education “parity of esteem”, as the Chancellor stated in the last Budget, must be picked up and driven forward by the next Government and it’s vital that the progress we’ve made on increasing the quality of apprenticeships does not go to waste,” said Berry.

“Through a flexible immigration policy and more high quality apprenticeships, the next Government will allow construction to act as a bulwark against any Brexit uncertainty. For every £1 invested in construction, 92p stays within the UK and £2.84 is generated in the wider economy.

“As the economy adapts to the reality of operating outside of the EU, it’s more important than ever that the Government works closely with strategic industries that offer high levels of productivity and a good return on investment. That means backing construction and supporting the sector will only become more important as the country looks to make a success of Brexit.

“We urge all of the main political parties to include positive policies on immigration, skills and apprenticeships in their forthcoming manifestoes.”

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