The Brexit Construction Skills Shortage – who Foots the Bill?

20th February 2019

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The construction industry is already in the grips of a skills shortage, with fewer young people joining the industry, and demand for labour at an all-time high.  This shortage is already impacting construction activity across the UK as well as pushing up the cost of labour.

The Government’s recently announced Brexit Immigration policy limits the number of ‘unskilled’ (earning £30k or less) workers that enter the country, and puts a cap on the length of time these workers are allowed to remain in the UK.

With a significant number of construction workers in the UK coming from within the EU, and the likelihood that all construction trades, as well as labourers, will come under the Government’s ‘unskilled’ threshold, the impact to the industry will be significant.  The sector looks less and less likely to be able to make up this already substantial skills shortfall.

So what impact will this have on the contractor who is obligated to deliver projects on time and on budget as we move through the Brexit process?  The additional resource that contractors will have to put against the recruitment and maintenance of a workforce, particularly on projects lasting more than 12 months, could have a huge impact on cost and productivity.

Contractors will have to make significant changes to their HR and recruitment policies and activities, and invest in training of site managers and HR staff to avoid unintentional breaches in compliance.  Many small to medium sized contractors simply won’t have the means to carry out an international recruitment drive, so may look to agencies, pushing up costs still further.

Contractors are already being squeezed on price by clients, and this new Brexit skills crisis will only increase this pressure.  It is essential that as an industry we continue to educate clients on the real costs of construction, safeguarding the future of contractors by making clients and the government aware of the issues raised by the skills crisis.