The ICE warned today that introducing a permanent immigration cap could leave the UK struggling to deliver vital infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail, low carbon energy generation and the nuclear new build programme.
The ICE said today in its response to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) consultation into the proposed cap on economic migration that the issue was part of a much wider skills crisis facing the construction industry.
Chair of the consultation committee and vice president of the ICE Barry Clarke said although the construction industry is currently experiencing a downturn, it is set for a period of much increased activity by 2014 that will demand a high level of specialist skills.
“A history of stop-start government procurement has meant industry has been reluctant to make long-term investments in the UK’s skill base, and we are now facing a skills crisis.
“This has been exacerbated by the economic downturn, with many graduates having to turn to other sectors for employment and engineers out of work unable to continue their professional development.
“Consequently, when construction activity booms in the near future we may find we have plenty of qualified engineers but a distinct lack of experienced specialist engineers.”
Clarke said it is the government’s responsibility to equip industry with the confidence to invest in long-term specialist skills training and development through consistent and clear approaches to planning and procurement.
Doors must remain open to specialist engineers from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who can help deliver critical infrastructure projects crucial to the UK’s long-term economic growth and shift to a low carbon economy, he said.
He also said that even if a fully developed UK construction workforce can be realised there will always be a case for tapping into the global workforce.
“Civil engineering is a global market, with large and unique projects such as nuclear new build occurring across the globe relatively frequently but occurring much less frequently in domestic markets. For this reason, companies will always need to recruit specialist civil engineers from overseas for niche projects, just as UK engineers will need to look outside of the UK to find work on the same projects when it is not available here.”