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Brexit plan needed to tackle skills shortage, industry warns

construction

Nine lLeading industry bodies have urged the government to address skills shortages in construction as Brexit uncertainty threatens to undermine efforts to recruit from other European Union (EU) countries.

The consortium of bodies backing the campaign include: the Association for Consultancy & Engineering (ACE), Build UK, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca), the Construction Plant-hire Association, the Construction Products Association, the Federation of Master Builders, the Highways Term Maintenance Association, the National Federation of Builders and the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

The group argues workers must be upskilled to fill the 18 roles with the biggest shortages. These include site supervisors, bricklayers, quantity surveyors and civil engineers.

However, where this is impossible, the group has proposed that the government add the roles to its Shortage Occupation List as part of its current review of migration as the UK leaves the EU.

Adding the roles to the shortage occupation list would allow foreign workers seeking these roles them to be prioritised when seeking visas for work in the UK.

Ceca chief executive Alasdair Reisner said: “Speaking to companies from across UK construction, we have identified some key roles where recruitment is already very difficult, or where it will become so once migration from the EU is reduced post-Brexit.

“We believe that it is crucial that we work together, as an industry and with government to target these shortage occupations, boosting recruitment and training in the UK, while looking to sensible migration from the rest of the world to meet additional demand.”

CIOB head of policy and public affaors Patrick Cusworth added: “We recognise that the construction industry in the UK needs to be more ambitious in terms of recruiting, training and developing more people than it currently does.

“However, research has shown that in the short-to-medium term, the industry needs to be able to continue to access migrant labour in a number of key professions such as construction and project management and a number of site-based roles.”

Meanwhile, ACE chief executive Hannah Vickers added: “Whichever Brexit scenario becomes reality, we look forward to engaging with government so that the particular skills needs of our members, who design and deliver our national infrastructure, are met – whether that be through further developing apprenticeships or migration, or most realistically a combination of both. They play a vital role in unlocking economic growth and will be crucial to helping establish the strong foundations of a post-Brexit UK.”

News of the joint campaign comes after Ceca and eight other leading industry associations and companies last year united to explore what skills were most in demand as the UK was still preparing to leave the EU.

The consortium designed a questionnaire, to be sent to 20,000 companies across the UK, to explore perspectives on potential skills shortages.

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