Construction Industry Workforce is Waning
With the Brexit process looking as if it’s about to get underway when Prime Minster Theresa May triggers Article 50 this week, surveyors are warning that if Britain doesn’t retain access to the European single market after Brexit, key construction projects could be at risk. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has revealed that an international pool of construction workers is absolutely essential to the success of several major projects here in the UK and has warned the government that the UK construction industry is in danger of losing more than 175,000 EU workers – that’s 8% of the sector’s workforce.
The Chief Executive of London & Quadrant Housing Association has revealed that on some construction sites, up to 70% of the workforce was made up of EU workers and the chairman of house building company Berkeley revealed that 50% of his workforce come from Eastern Europe. With an ageing population and a lack of new UK workers being attracted into the construction sector, our workforce is set to decrease by 20 – 25% over the coming ten years.
A survey carried out by RICS at the end of last year saw 30% of construction professionals admit that hiring non-UK workers is vital for the success of their business. The companies that would be most affected are mostly those working on large project or based in the south east of the country. RICS is calling on the government to secure continued access to the single market or to put in place alternative plans that would allow them to easily employ EU workers in the future. With the UK dependent on thousands of EU workers this is endangering our ability to create the infrastructure necessary to enable our cities to compete on a world stage.
According to RICS, more should be done to increase the number of skilled UK workers through initiatives like the apprenticeships scheme. It’s believed that some of the larger construction companies may set up their own training centres but RICS warns that this won’t be enough and are calling for construction professions to feature on the shortage occupations list.
As an industry, we will need to increase the domestic skills base and RICS is collaborating with government and the industry as a whole to develop the necessary skills base via initiatives such as degree apprenticeships (a subject we covered quite recently) in our news section. Developing that skills base means that more work will need to be done when it comes to promoting schemes like this to the industry in general and RICS will prioritise this. With the UK construction industry already experiencing a slowdown before the Brexit process, is triggered and the full effect of budget changes being felt, the industry may begin to lose the ground that it had slowly but surely recovered since the financial crisis of 2008.