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One in three construction firms already feeling impact of Brexit

Keeping hold of the workers they currently employ is the most important aim to employers in the industry, a survey revealed

One third of UK construction firms are already feeling the effects of Brexit, according to new data, but most companies have not yet taken any action to deal with it.

Research from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) shows that the number of construction employers feeling the impact of Brexit has increased by 9 per cent compared with last year.

Almost half the employers in the sector are concerned that recruitment is going to become more difficult over the next two years, while 4 per cent expect hiring to become easier.  

Research shows that the number of migrant workers in unskilled, general labouring roles has doubled in the last year, rising from 22 per cent to 40 per cent. Within the sector, Romanians have “risen rapidly” to becoming the largest national group working in construction, up from 27 per cent in 2015 to 64 per cent in 2017.

However, the data also shows that less than a third of firms have taken action “or plan on doing” so as Brexit approaches.

In a survey of more than 400 firms, respondents said keeping hold of the workers they currently employ is the most important aim to employers in the run-up to Brexit.

Steve Radley, policy director at CITB, said: “With Brexit approaching, construction employers are expecting the recruitment of skilled workers to get harder as they anticipate restrictions on access to migrant workers. However, few employers are making firm plans to address this and instead are focusing on retaining their existing migrant workforce.”

He added that the research highlighted a need for a “twin-track strategy” of investing in the domestic workforce while enabling employers to “continue to secure the vital talent of migrant workers”.

Mr Radley said: “With an estimated 158,000 construction jobs to be created between now and 2022, it is critical that industry works together to deliver its part of this strategy.”    

The most recent industry data showed construction activity picked up in June, with the latest Purchasing Managers’ Index showing a figure of 53.1, up from 52.5 in May, indicating the fastest growth in seven months.

However, analysts warned the the industry is still under a “cloud of uncertainty” because of Brexit.

Earlier this year, research carried out by the Federation of Master Buildersrevealed that construction firms were facing more than year-long waits for materials such as bricks, due to the devaluation of sterling.