Examining employment and skills challenges in the construction sector

Results from a major IFF Research study examining employment and skills challenges in the construction sector, the potential impact of proposed visa changes, and the future plans of employers, non-UK born construction workers and recruitment agencies, have recently been published by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). The study provides robust, up to date evidence to help inform decision making by the UK Government, the construction sector and CITB in the run-up to, and following, Brexit.

The research found that the majority of employers with non UK-born workers do not consider the ‘low skilled’ visa route proposed in the government’s White Paper suitable for their business. Specifically, many felt that the 12 month time limit would be too short because training new workers will take much of that time, and many projects last longer than a year. Moreover, many have concerns that this visa will make it harder to recruit staff, lead to skills shortages, lead to difficulty retaining staff, and increase administration and red tape. The study also found that non UK-born workers are keen to ‘train to remain’, enabling them to move from a low to a high-skilled visa, while continuing to work in the UK.

Mark Winterbotham, the Director at IFF Research who led the research, commented “This was a challenging project to deliver, particularly getting permission and then interviewing migrant workers on construction sites, and in different languages, but the experience of undertaking similar work twice previously for CITB certainly helped. We’re very pleased the CITB have used the findings so quickly and developed recommendations for government to help ensure that the new migration system works for the construction industry.”

Non UK-born workers have long played a key role in the British construction industry, and currently accounting for 54% of the construction workforce in London. According to CITB Policy Director, Steve Radley, the industry is preparing to respond to this challenge by training more home-grown workers.