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Inquiry into the impact of Brexit on future skills needsDecember 2016


Clair Prosser, Press Officer, BSRIA
BSRIA has garnered the following intelligence from a recent member survey which will feed into
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment fifth inquiry, looking at the impact of Brexit on future skills needs in the construction industry and the built environment professions.

This topic is timely and fundamental given the reliance of construction on workers from the EU both at a trades and professional level; and at a time when construction is already facing a skills shortage. Can the industry continue to attract sufficient migrant workers from EU; or can it train enough home grown talent to meet demand? Or will Brexit potentially have ominous effects?

Salient statistics:

Have you experienced noticeable hiring difficulties between trades and professional level?

  • 70 per cent saying yes they did, with a quarter saying that they hadn’t and five per cent saying that they didn’t know.

If there are tighter controls on migration within the EU applied what do you think will be your largest area of concern?

  • Staff recruitment came out highest (at 38 per cent).

One comment was that: “It would mean that we could have a greater say on the quality of the people and hand pick the right ones.”

Do you currently have a strategy for attracting new entrants or career returners into the industry?

  • 62 per cent said that they didn’t with 38 per cent saying that they did.

With a shortage of skilled labour in the UK market, would controls on EU migration restrict your recruitment plans?

  • 52 per cent of respondents answered that it wouldn’t with 43 per cent answering that it would and five per cent answering that they didn’t know.

What percentage of your current workforce is EU nationals (excluding UK)?

  • Almost half (48 per cent) of those surveyed answered that between 0-five per cent were EU nationals with the remaining results scattered more of less evenly in the categories:
  • Six – 12 per cent; 13 to 18 per cent; 19 – 25 per cent, more than 25 per cent and “don’t know”.

If there are tighter controls on migration with the EU applied, do you think spend on skill development will:

  • Increase (76 per cent); stay the same (24 per cent).

When asked: what do you think the government should/could be doing to mitigate a potential Brexit skills crisis?

Clair Prosser, Press Officer, BSRIA said: “One respondent was quite arch, commenting: “Government should be doing more to mitigate the skills crisis – irrespective of any Brexit – namely it was already an issue before the referendum.”

With more forthright comment: “In the short term, a visa system for skilled workers should be introduced. In the long term –   improve the standards of teaching and secondary education to produce the skill base the UK needs. We cannot go buying in cheap labour “forever”. It has social consequences and leaves the UK at the mercy of foreign labour resources. We need to grow our home education systems. We did it once and can do it again if we get away from managers believing cheapest is best and only taking a short term view.”

Investing in the next generation of home grown talent:

  • Encourage the route for companies to take on trainees and apprentices – not necessarily university degrees.
  • The creation and funding of proper (four year) apprenticeships in engineering and building trades is essential for UK school leavers. Tax incentives are essential. We have a generation of underskilled and undereducated people who need upskilling quickly and fairly. Leadership and investment is required.
  • Focus training and education towards the relevant subjects – maybe offering incentives for those taking up STEM subjects – including lower cost student loans. 
  • Some sort of skills passport potentially following the format of the MOOC courses (massive open online course) that are proliferating at the moment should be created. This would be good for short and sharp skills updating. Whatever system is used, the bureaucracy and administration must be kept to the absolute minimum.

Clair added that there was a final member salvo to government: “Provide more training grants instead of SMEs carrying the burden, it is crippling.”

The APPG for EBE Commission of Inquiry comprises members of both Houses of Parliament, senior members of the construction professions, key influencers and decision makers in other aspects of society. 

The Commission of Inquiry will examine written submissions and will set up roundtable sessions, at which oral evidence will be presented to the Commission directly. These will take place from December to February 2017.

These results were attained from supplementary questions asked of consulting engineers in the November BSRIA Business Bulletin questionnaire.

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