BREXIT – What’s the Future Like for the UK Construction Industry?
In the run up to the Referendum we've been keeping a close eye on the news here at Safety Fabrication and have already published a couple of blog posts on what a Brexit is likely to mean, both in terms of health and safety at work and on the construction sector in general.
So, we've had the Referendum and despite warnings of dire and uncertain consequences by economists, business leaders and industry movers and shakers, the votes came in and the people of Britain voted for a Brexit. This was by no means an overwhelming decision - it was a very close call right up until the end. Moreover, after studying the demographics, it appears that Brexit was predominantly the choice of the older generation, a generation that may not even still be around when it comes to living with the consequences of their decision. Taking a closer look at the age divide when it came to voting in the Referendum, more than 70% of voters under the age of 25 wanted Britain to remain in the EU and these are the people that the Brexit is likely to affect the most and for the longest time. In fact, most of those who voted for a Brexit are either already retired or facing retirement in the next few years and won't have to worry about the effect that a Brexit will have on their working lives.
While the Brexit won't happen immediately, we'll probably face a couple of years in limbo while bureaucrats sort out how to go forward from this point. Leaving the EU is likely to have quite a marked effect on business and industry but there are also issues to consider when it comes to legislation. Most of our health and safety at work legislation here in the UK is based on European Directives and it's going to cost us both time and (a lot of) money to ensure that changes and new regulations offer working people here in the UK the same degree of protection that we now enjoy.
The construction industry in Britain is heavily reliant on migrant workers from Europe, with 12% of construction workers currently of non -UK origin. The majority of these are from EU countries like Poland, Romania and Lithuania and they've played an important role in helping the construction sector to recover from the economic downturn when 400,000 skilled workers left the industry.
If the government wants to meet their house building and infrastructure objectives there will need to be a new system of immigration put in place in order for the const5ructionn sector to rise to the occasion. There is a serious shortage of skilled workers in the British construction industry and it's now more imperative than ever that we invest in home-grown talent through apprenticeship training. According to the Federation of Master Builders, the next few years are likely to see unprecedented challenges for the construction and house building sectors here in the UK and the only way of overcoming thee will be through close and effective collaboration between the government and industry.