The latest figures from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) show that eight per cent of the UK’s construction workers are EU nationals, accounting for some 176,500 people. Post Brexit, if the UK looses access to the single market, 176,500 jobs could be under threat which could jeopardise a predicted £500 billion infrastructure pipeline to a standstill. This must be addressed as a priority, according to RICS.
Jeremy Blackburn, head of UK Policy at RICS says that “as the industry’s professional body, we are working with government and industry to develop that skills base, building vital initiatives – such as degree apprenticeships – in our sector to drive the talent pipeline forward.”
The UK is already in the grip of a construction skills crisis. While some overseas professionals are regarded as critical by the UK Government, and are therefore prioritised during the visa application process, construction professions have not yet been added to the ‘UK Shortage Occupations List’. According to Blackburn, quantity surveyors should be included on that list. Some of the professions that are on the list won’t improve our infrastructure or solve the housing crisis, yet their skills are currently viewed as essential, whereas construction professionals are not.
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. Blackburn states that unless access to the single market is secured or alternative plans are put in place, we won’t be able to create the infrastructure needed to enable our cities to compete on a global stage. We have said before that this is a potential stumbling block for the Government, which is working to deliver both its Housing White Paper and Industrial Strategy. Of course, we must also address the need to deliver a construction and property industry that is resilient to future change and can withstand the impact of any future political or economic shocks — key to that will be growing the domestic skills base. As the industry’s professional body, we are working with Government and industry to develop that skills base, building vital initiatives, such as degree apprenticeships, in our sector to drive the talent pipeline forward. This survey reveals that more work needs to be done to promote the indisputable benefits of these schemes to industry — RICS intends to take this forward as a priority.
With Theresa May having officially triggered Article 50 on March 29th, Britain should officially leave the EU no later than April 2019. Last month, planning consultancy Arcadis said that the UK must hire more than 400,000 workers every year for the next five years to meet demand for house building and infrastructure projects, without the threat of foreign workers departing as a result of Brexit.
No member state has ever withdrawn from the EU, so these projections are just that at this stage. Whatever the future holds for construction, Broadsword will continue to use innovative and new approaches to deliver high quality work in all aspects of our business.