Construction industry fears of a huge labour shortage after Brexit vote

A number of construction industry experts in the UK have expressed fears over a huge labour shortfall when Britain leaves the EU following the referendum result last week.

Unless the new Prime Minister can agree a new immigration system that provides the Construction industry with the skills needed, the government’s targets for home-building and infrastructure may not be met.

“The UK construction industry has been heavily reliant on migrant workers from Europe for decades now – at present, 12% of the British construction workers are of non-UK origin,” said Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, reports GCR’s sister publication, Construction Manager.

“The majority of these workers are from EU countries such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania,” Berry added. “It is now the government’s responsibility to ensure that the free-flowing tap of migrant workers from Europe is not turned off. If ministers want to meet their house building and infrastructure objectives, they have to ensure that the new system of immigration is responsive to the needs of industry.”

National Federation of Builders chief executive Richard Beresford said: “The lack of skills for the pipeline of work we have is the defining structural issue for the industry. Until now, we have developed home-grown talent and, when that was not enough, we turned to the EU to make up the shortfall.

“The government must clarify what will happen to the EU construction workers in the UK, as they are currently filling the gap left by our skills crisis. We need to recruit a million workers into the industry by 2020, and putting EU migrants off coming here will only exacerbate this problem.”

Alan Brookes, UK chief executive officer of construction consultant Arcadis, said: “In the future, European labour may no longer be the safety valve it has been, so we must plan to use the workforce differently. Using more offsite components and investing in skills and the management of projects will now prove absolutely vital.”