Builders organisation calls for pledge on immigrant construction workers

After the general election in June the British Government must ensure the construction sector has enough skilled workers post-Brexit or its housing and infrastructure manifesto pledges will be redundant, it is claimed.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) says that the importance of migrant labour to the construction sector needs to be acknowledged and that the demand for skilled migrant workers from the European Union and beyond cannot be overstated.

‘In London alone, there are more than 157,000 non-UK construction workers constituting almost half of the industry’s workforce in the capital. Pre-Brexit, 60% of small construction firms are already having trouble hiring bricklayers and that’s before the UK abandons the free movement of people,’ said Brian Berry, FMB chief executive.

‘If the next Government implements an inflexible immigration system that hinders the ability of talented foreign construction workers from making their way to the UK, any manifesto pledges relating to the delivery of housing and infrastructure will be rendered meaningless,’ he explained.

‘In the longer term, the most sustainable solution to the chronic skills deficit is for employers to recruit and train more home-grown talent. Undoubtedly, the best way of achieving this is to focus on increasing the quality, duration and thoroughness of construction apprenticeships,’ he pointed out.

The FMB believes that the combination of a flexible immigration policy and more high quality apprenticeships will allow construction to act as a bulwark against any Brexit uncertainty.

‘As the economy adapts to the reality of operating outside of the EU, it’s more important than ever that the Government works closely with strategic industries that offer high levels of productivity and a good return on investment,’ Berry said.

‘That means backing construction and supporting the sector will only become more important as the country looks to make a success of Brexit. We urge all of the main political parties to include positive policies on immigration, skills and apprenticeships in their forthcoming manifestoes,’ he added.