Shraga Stern, head of Decorean, says the construction industry “worrying” in light of the “needs to pull together to find a solution,” news that the UK construction industry threatens to lose over 175,000 EU workers if Britain fails to retain access to the European single market after Brexit.
Prime minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 starting the official divorce process from the EU on March 29, but with the industry already facing a skills shortage, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) says the sector could lose a further eight per cent of its workforce if a deal cannot be struck, which it says, could bring some of the country’s biggest infrastructure and construction projects to a “standstill”.
Thirty percent of those polled believed hiring non-UK workers was critical to their companies’ development, while twenty percent said apprenticeship programmes were ineffective.
RICS is now requesting the government to add the UK shortage occupations list to prioritise qualified construction workers during the visa application process.
“Quantity surveyors, for example, may be added to the “UK Shortage Occupations List” as a simple first step. Even though ballet dancers can’t improve our infrastructure or alleviate our housing issue, their talents are currently regarded as necessary, whilst construction experts aren’t “RICS’s head of policy, Jeremy Blackburn, agreed.
Stern, on the other hand, is similarly worried: “According to what we had said at the time, Brexit would have a significant negative impact on obtaining skills and talent, and statements like these demonstrate that it may be coming to pass.
“If we want to find a solution, the sector should join forces and cooperate to develop a pool of domestic talent to replace the workers who may depart.
And trade union Unite is calling on the Government to wake up to the issue and adopt public procurement laws pushing employers to recruit and educate apprentices.
acting general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This survey shows once again that the government’s failure to guarantee the rights of existing EU citizens is playing fast and loose with the UK economy.” Many EU residents have already decided to leave the UK because of uncertainties over their rights to remain in this country after Brexit.
As a result, construction projects will be delayed or cancelled, which will have a negative impact on the industry’s health.
“It is essential that the government wakes up to the threat faced to the UK construction industry by reversing decades of neglect and massively increasing the number of high quality apprenticeships so the UK can increasingly become self-sufficient.
“This will not be achieved unless the government introduces strict public procurement policies forcing companies bidding for all public sector contracts to recruit and train high numbers of apprentices. The lassiez faire approach of construction apprentice training has been an unmitigated failure.”