UK construction: Finding certainty in uncertain times
The UK construction industry has been plodding along but on somewhat unstable ground since the result of the EU referendum. Our business immigration research reveals that since the triggering of Article 50, a third of businesses have found that there has been a drop in the number of EU migrants applying for work in the UK. The research profiles companies operating in real estate and construction, and highlights the sector’s reliance on overseas workers.
In fact, across the country, eight percent of the construction industry’s workforce are from the EU, with this figure rising to a whopping 28 percent in London.
Retaining EU workers
To safeguard their workforce, businesses must prioritise retaining EU workers who are currently living in the UK. Having a clear understanding of their employment position in relation to the Government’s immigration whitepaper, published last year, is vital to doing this successfully. Proactively reviewing internal employment profiles can also help businesses assess how reliant they are on EU talent. Budgeting, recruitment strategies and timescales can then be agreed and put in place.
Close to home approach
With the recruitment of EU workers set to become more difficult post-Brexit, construction companies must look to local schools, colleges and universities to fill the talent gap. By contacting educational institutes directly and forging close links, they can ensure potential candidates are aware of any in-house training opportunities and internships on offer. Marketing apprenticeship schemes can also provide a supply of skilled workers for businesses to employ.
Investing in human talent alone is not enough to keep the industry afloat. New methods and technological opportunities are also needed to look to try to reduce the pressure on businesses to hire many more staff and help to lessen the impact of the inevitable skills gap.
MMC (offsite construction) is one area that remains an area of focus, particularly in respect of housing, student accommodation, hotel /leisure but notably also schools and other public buildings. Currently, its use is limited in the UK, but it could offer a number of advantages should it become more widely adopted. For example, MMC:
- Is cost-effective
- Enables houses to be built all year round
- Offers a 30-50 percent reduced build time
- Can integrate renewable energy systems
- Allows, specialised types of accommodation, such as later living, to be built quickly and to a high standard
Although the industry is feeling the effects of such an uncertain time, taking a proactive approach to recruiting talent and improving technology will help the industry to regain some stability and prepare for the future.
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