No deal? Labour and skills recommendations for construction

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The UK’s construction sector is already facing a significant shortage of skills and labour, CLC’s No Deal Contingency Planning Report explains what no deal could mean for the industry

The industry has already developed the Construction Leadership Council Skills Strategy and Action Plan that outlines how the industry plans to improve how it attract, trains and retains the skilled workforce it needs in the longer term.

The Construction Sector Deal’s focus on modernisation and productivity will also help to reduce its reliance on lower-skilled workers and reduce the barriers to training. However, it cannot make these changes overnight.

In the short-term, it is particularly important to ensure that as many as possible of the current EU nationals working in our sector, secure their rights to work in the UK after Brexit and our sector is given the breathing space it needs to address the loss of its current skilled labour pool.

A ‘no deal’ also poses a number of other challenges to the UK’s construction sector such as movement of goods, product accreditation and data adequacy.

The recommendations and actions in this report are only intended to address labour and skills risks and concerns. This report details the short and medium-term measures.

Regardless of how we exit the European Union, it is vital that we continue to innovate and build the pipeline of UK construction skills and expertise to ensure we can continue to drive the sustainable growth of the sector.

The CLC Skills Workstream Strategy and Action Plan, published in 2018, outlines how we propose to address the longer term labour and skills requirements for our future industry.

Recommendations and actions from this report comprise

  • The industry should be proactive and support its EU employees with information on how to secure settled status in the UK, as well as helping to provide any additional evidence that may be requested by the Home Office for the application.
  • The CLC and industry will promote the Government’s guidance to workers in the sector, including introducing information centres at some major UK project sites.
  • Government and industry to work together to ensure that all of the eligible EU citizens currently living in the UK and working in the UK’s construction sector (including the self-employed) are able to register for settled or pre-settled status.
  • The Government needs to review the proposed future immigration system to ensure it is fit for purpose for construction and avoids dramatic labour shortages in our sector which will impact the delivery of important projects across the country. Specifically:
    • Reduce the required qualification level for a skilled worker to NVQ Level 2 to reflect the industry skilled worker status.
    • Adjust the temporary short-term workers visa to 24-months with a 12-month cooling off period. With the possibility of a path to a skilled work visa at the end of that period.
    • Ensure that in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit the mutual recognition of qualifications across the EU and UK is prioritised.

Mark Reynolds, CLC Skills Workstream Lead and Mace Chief Executive commented: “It is clear that a ‘no deal’ has the potential to be extremely disruptive to the UK construction sector, particularly in regards to its access to skilled labour and the supply of materials and services.

“More than 165,000 people from the EU work in our industry. The highest concentration of EU citizens working in the UK construction sector is in London and the South East, where the need for new homes is the most acute.

“This report builds on a huge amount of collective work from all of our major trade bodies and a number of major employers in the sector and as such is an excellent example of what can be achieved when we work together. This simply is not an issue we can address as individual companies.

“The recommendations and actions in this paper set out a clear way forward for industry and the Government to work together to minimise the disruption to the UK’s construction sector in the case of both a ‘no deal’ Brexit or if we secure a deal.”

Read the full report here.

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