FMB calls for rethink on immigration for construction workers

The UK’s Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has warned that construction companies must be allowed to continue to bring in skilled tradespeople from abroad post Brexit.

Under post-Brexit immigration proposals, some overseas-based tradespeople will struggle to be granted visas to enter the UK to work as many Level 2 construction trades are to be labelled ‘low-skilled’ under the new rules.

But Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, warns that there simply aren’t enough British-born tradespeople to fill the required jobs. He also points to recent statistics that show a drop-off in the number of young people learning a construction trade.

Figures released by the Department for Education show that the number of new construction apprenticeship starts for January 2019 has fallen to 950 compared with 1,216 the previous year. In particular, the number of starts for Level 2 apprenticeships, that is equivalent to GCSE level, has dropped to 555 in January 2019 from 712 in January 2018.

“It takes years to train quality tradespeople to become a Level 2 worker and even if we did have the time to train at this scale, there aren’t enough UK-born workers to go around as we are almost at full employment,” Berry explained. “The construction industry is facing a cliff-edge when it comes to skill shortages, and I’m concerned that we will not be able to continue growing and delivering on the Government’s housing and infrastructure targets if this state of affairs continues.

“The Government must fundamentally rethink the Apprenticeship Levy and its post-Brexit immigration proposals, or else the construction sector will not be able to deliver what’s required.”

Article published 29th March 2019