Paul Groves considers the impact of Brexit on the construction industry and looks at the key requirements. 

The immediate aftermath of the Government’s triggering of Article 50 to eventually lead the UK out of the EU showed just how difficult and uncertain the process is likely to be.

The period of uncertainty that has hit the economy and industries such as construction since the referendum vote on leaving the European Union will continue as talks on Brexit develop.

Prior to the Prime Minister’s triggering of Article 50 RICS released a survey predicting that UK construction could lose almost 200,000 EU workers post-Brexit should Britain lose access to the single market, putting some of the country’s biggest infrastructure and construction projects under threat.

RICS has cautioned that for Brexit to succeed, it is essential to secure continued access to the EU single market or to put alternative plans in place to safeguard the future of the property and construction sectors in the UK.

Latest RICS figures show that 8% of the UK’s construction workers are EU nationals, accounting for some 176,500 people. 30% of construction professionals surveyed revealed that hiring non-UK workers was important to the success of their businesses.

Securing an inclusive exit deal with the EU is fundamental to a prosperous future for the UK’s construction industry.

Specification Paul Groves2 Paul Groves Editor of Specification magazine

Scaremongering

This led to accusations of scaremongering. However, many in construction recognise the need to plan effectively for Brexit. Indeed, the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) - the UK’s largest roofing trade association - has unveiled an ambitious four-year Workforce Development Strategy that is designed to elevate standards and ignite growth across the roofing sector.

Seeking to attract full government and private sector backing, support and engagement, the new strategy will ultimately open doors to new jobs, higher standards, and help reach UK Construction targets.

This development is the result of an independent and extensive research project undertaken by Skyblue Research on behalf of NFRC, the Roofing Industry Alliance and funded by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

It is this type of co-operation and long-term view that the industry requires more than ever.

The National Federation of Builders (NFB) believes that securing an inclusive exit deal with the EU is fundamental to a prosperous future for the UK’s construction industry.

With 35,000 new workers needed each year to cope with current demand, and just 20,000 apprenticeships started in 2015, the industry faces a shortage of skilled workers that needs to be addressed.

Whatever Government we end up with on 9th June should work towards an exit deal that helps the industry encourage more British people to undertake construction careers, whilst also adopting a flexible visa regime for construction workers once Britain has left the EU.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the NFB, said: “The construction industry is undergoing a major skills crisis and remains heavily reliant on skilled workers from the EU, who make almost 10% of all construction workers in the UK. That is why we need to foster home-grown talent and attract more people from all backgrounds to join a career in construction.”

Paul Groves is Editor of Specification Magazine.

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