Brexit - What Does it Mean for the Construction Industry

Brexit - What Does it Mean for the Construction Industry

31st May 2016

A combination of the upcoming Brexit vote and the skills shortage in the UK construction industry has seen an increase in demand for temporary workers.  These are the findings of a survey of construction recruitment companies undertaken by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body for the UK’s recruitment industry. 

In April of this year the REC surveyed member agencies that supply staff to the construction industry here in the UK.  More than 30% of respondents place between 100 and 300 temporary staff each week while 14% of respondents place more than 300 temporary staff on a weekly basis.  These are the people best placed to give us an overall view of what’s going on in the construction industry as far as staffing and employment is concerned.

More than 60% of respondents said that demand for temporary construction employees has increased over the last year with 69% revealed that the shortage of bricklayers, labourers and other tradesmen now represents a significant risk to their business.  More than 40% admitted that finding bricklayers is especially difficult and has led to a sharp rise in pay for bricklayer who are now taking home more than £1,000 per week as building firms compete for the workers necessary to keep UK housebuilding and infrastructure projects on track.

To make matters even worse, construction recruiters are predicting that if the UK electorate votes to leave the European Union in the upcoming referendum (due to take place on 23rd June, 2016), things will only get worse.  Nearly 60% of respondents think that a Brexit would make it more difficult to find suitable workers to fill vacancies in the construction sector.  

The latest employment data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows a year on year increase in construction wages of 7.5% as some employers are increasing pay faster as the competition to secure the services of skilled workers intensifies.  In December, 2015 there were 2.238,000 jobs in construction which represented 6.6% of all jobs in the UK.  The construction industry was last year's biggest job creator, accounting for 25% of job growth.

This is great news for workers within the construction industry, particularly those with specialised skills such as roofers who work at height, bricklayers, plumbers and electricians.  The UK is close to full employments and building companies already struggle to find enough staff to operate at capacity.  There are concerns that if Britain leaves the EU recruitment in the construction sector will present company owners and managers with even more of a challenge. 

Whatever the outcome of the referendum, the construction industry needs to address the burgeoning skills shortage.  This will mean an increased investment by employers in training and skills development and more apprenticeships.  The education sector will need to play its part too, with enhanced careers guidance in schools and more work experience opportunities for youngsters so that they are aware of the potential benefits to be enjoyed by opting for a career in the construction industry.