8th May 2017
The next UK Government will face many challenges over and above negotiating Britain’s departure from the European Union and as such the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) wants all political parties to set out their proposals about how they would overcome some of the fundamental challenges we currently face, including how they will tackle the need to build more homes and address our growing skills crisis through an increase in quality apprenticeships.
One key issue flagged is that the next Government must ensure the construction sector has enough skilled workers, post-Brexit, as without them, its housing and infrastructure manifesto pledges will be redundant, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). The FMB has called on all major political parties to recognise the importance of migrant labour to the construction sector as part of its ‘Programme for Government’, that has been launched the day before Parliament is dissolved for the General Election.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The UK construction sector’s demand for skilled migrant workers from the EU and beyond cannot be overstated. In London alone, there are more than 157,000 non-UK construction workers constituting almost half of the industry’s workforce in the capital. Pre-Brexit, 60% of small construction firms are already having trouble hiring bricklayers and that’s before the UK abandons the free movement of people. If the next Government implements an inflexible immigration system that hinders the ability of talented foreign construction workers from making their way to the UK, any manifesto pledges relating to the delivery of housing and infrastructure will be rendered meaningless.”
Berry continued: “In the longer term, the most sustainable solution to the chronic skills deficit is for employers to recruit and train more home-grown talent. Undoubtedly, the best way of achieving this is to focus on increasing the quality, duration and thoroughness of construction apprenticeships. Giving technical and academic education “parity of esteem”, as the Chancellor stated in the last Budget, must be picked up and driven forward by the next Government and it’s vital that the progress we’ve made on increasing the quality of apprenticeships does not go to waste.”
Berry concluded: “Through a flexible immigration policy and more high quality apprenticeships, the next Government will allow construction to act as a bulwark against any Brexit uncertainty. For every £1 invested in construction, 92p stays within the UK and £2.84 is generated in the wider economy. As the economy adapts to the reality of operating outside of the EU, it’s more important than ever that the Government works closely with strategic industries that offer high levels of productivity and a good return on investment. That means backing construction and supporting the sector will only become more important as the country looks to make a success of Brexit. We urge all of the main political parties to include positive policies on immigration, skills and apprenticeships in their forthcoming manifestoes.”
Stuart Barr, Barr Group Company Director says ”We have a wide and varied representation of nationalities within the staff of the Barr Group companies, from Europe and beyond. Both myself and the other Barr Group Directors care, above all, that our staff come to work to work and that they truly care about the job they do. The non-UK contingent of our workforce has been seen to have a very strong work ethic and could even be said to ‘up the game’ of our British workers. All in all, having a strong mix of skills and a rounded portfolio of experience amongst our staff can only add to our ability to give every job the workmanship, time and attention it deserves. Occasionally there can be issues with language barriers when employees do not speak Engilsh, but this can be easily overcome if one member of the same team can act as an effective translator. With a combination of training from within, mainly through our apprenticeship scheme, and hiring skilled labour from outside the company, both British and non-UK nationals, has so far given us the balance we need to sucessfully meet our customers needs."
See below a synopsis of the FMBs manifesto inclusion recomendations:
FIVE POINT PLAN FOR THE NEXT GOVERNMENT: 2017 TO 2022
1) Ensure that the construction industry has enough skilled workers
Introduce a flexible system of immigration that allows key strategic industries like construction to draw upon adequate levels of skilled labour from the EU and beyond.
Commit to increasing the quality, duration and thoroughness of apprenticeships and thus improve the image of vocational training so that we can attract more young people into our industry.
2) Increase the supply of new homes
The UK Government should commit to building at least 200,000 new homes per year in England and encourage the delivery of 25,000 new homes in Scotland; 14,000 in Wales; and 11,000 in Northern Ireland.
In England, continue to work with the house building industry to successfully implement key recommendations within the 2017 Housing White Paper that are designed to increase house building through SME builders.
3) Improve the quality of our new and existing homes
Introduce a mandatory warranty requirement for all domestic building works that require Building Regulations approval and structural engineering calculations.
Commission a thorough review of new homes warranties to establish whether the warranties currently provided are adequate.
4) Make our homes more energy efficient
Reduce VAT on housing renovation and repair work from 20% to 5% to encourage refurbishment work, including energy efficiency measures.
Ensure that any Government investment in reducing energy bills is targeted primarily at improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s homes.
5) Boost growth among construction SMEs
Ensure that the overall regulatory burden on small businesses is reduced as part of the Brexit process.
The BarrGroup directors look forward to an informative session on the impact of Brexit on the UK construction industry at the FMB south of England Conference in Bournemouth on Friday this week.