Brexit could prove disastrous for the delivery of new homes and infrastructure unless transitional arrangements are put in place to allow the construction industry to easily draw on EU workers while it skills up a domestic workforce in greater numbers. The warning comes from a Commission of Inquiry of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment in a new report Building on Brexit, published today at the RICS in London.
The cross-party group of parliamentarians points out the perfect storm of an ageing workforce and more people leaving the industry than entering it which is creating a skills crisis even without Brexit. There are nearly 200,000 people from the EU working in the UK which we cannot afford to lose, it says. The report sets out a 12-point plan to deal with the impact of Brexit on skills and for modernising the industry to become more competitive and productive going forward.
The report is calling for:
- Government to stabilise the existing workforce by ensuring existing EU migrant workers are able to remain in the UK and then putting in place transitional arrangements for a period of time so that access to foreign workers does not fall off a cliff edge. There are 194,000 workers from the EU – equivalent to the numbers needed to build 16 Crossrails.
- Industry to get behind an overarching ambition to attract, train and retain a greater domestic workforce, with skills aligned to more modern ways of working.
- Industry to step up to the plate and become future proof, more productive and enterprising by harnessing digital technologies and offsite construction.
To help boost training and the skilling up of a domestic workforce the report is recommending:
- the formation of a single body to provide strategic oversight on training and skills at all levels and attracting new talent across the spectrum of the built environment, rather than just trades;
- merging the apprenticeship levy and the CITB into one and the money ring-fenced so it is spent within the built environment to attract and train new talent with the skills for today and the future.
The report identifies that “The current system of having two levies is unviable and confusing. There also needs to be more flexibility over how levy money is spent,” Oliver Colvile, chairman of the APPG Group for Excellence of the Built Environment said: “Brexit presents huge risks to the UK construction sector and, as a consequence, to our ability to deliver the homes and infrastructure that we urgently need.
It is hard to overstate the importance of locking in construction to the heart of the industrial strategy and taking a proactive and comprehensive approach to the challenges facing the construction sector in mitigating the risks.”
Professor John Nolan, chairman of the Construction Industry Council, which sponsored the report said “It is vital the industry skills up and modernises and we would suggest our recommendations are incorporated into the sector-deal agreement that is being drawn up between Government and the Construction Leadership Council as part of the new industrial strategy.”
Please click here for the full report.