Brexit construction

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has warned that Brexit could exacerbate what it calls a “massive skills gap” in the UK construction industry.

A report released by RICS on Wednesday points to a number of ongoing issues in the sector which have lead to a “construction skills crisis”.

The report’s findings are based on an estimate of how many foreign European workers are currently employed in the UK’s construction industry. It warns that as a result of Brexit and a departure from the European single market, 176,500 workers could be lost: around 8% of the industry’s workforce.

Claiming that the UK is “already in the grip” of a skills shortage, the RICS report calls for the government to begin pushing through visa applications for those in the construction industry. Many aspects of the UK’s future relationship with Europe still remain unclear, although Prime Minister Theresa May has stated that she supports a “right to remain”.

The shortage is more than just an inconvenience for those of us planning home improvements. The UK government has plans to spend around £500bn on future infrastructure projects, and has also been called on to provide 250,000 new homes every year.

Speaking to Sky News, RICS President Amanda Clark said that “the question is whether we have the skills to develop the programme of works that we want.”

"In terms of skilled workers we have a huge shortfall at the moment, and a shortfall in the core skills that we need to deliver the major construction programmes. 

“It is in all our interests that we make a success of Brexit, but a loss of access to the single market has the potential to slowly bring the UK’s £500bn infrastructure pipeline to a standstill," said Jeremy Blackburn, Head of UK Policy at RICS. "That means 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."

Clack stressed the need to increase the number of women working in the industry. She also emphasised the need for more young apprentices, pointing to the industry’s ageing workforce.

"We have 30% of the workforce that's over 50. They're going to retire and when they do, what are we going to do about that?

"430,000 people are going to leave the sector between 2010 and 2020 so we have to replace that, and then we also need to think about what we need to do to develop those skills."