The British and Irish Trading Alliance’s (BITA) round table in London on 21 July, sought to find workable solutions to ease the labour crisis in construction, including a simpler immigration system, and making the industry more attractive to new entrants.
CONSTRUCT set the scene for participants with Trade Association Manager, Dave Campbell, providing the latest statistics, including highlighting the annual recruitment requirement of 43,000 to meet expected output in construction, and the plight of our members who more than half are experiencing acute labour shortages and wage rate inflation of 20%.
Dave also highlighted some of the work being undertaken at a cross-industry level by Build UK and the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), including the Industry Skills Plan, and initiatives such as the Talent Retention Scheme and the shortly to be launched Talent View – a one stop shop for new entrants, investment in construction ‘Boot Camps’ and flexible apprenticeships.
The need for solid data on the shortages and the knock-on effect on delivery was identified as critical to getting the attention of Government.
CONSTRUCT members Oliver Connell & Son sponsored the event and Laing O’Rourke/Expanded were represented, with both joining the debate to highlight the need to bring in higher calibre domestic labour while finding short-term solutions for shortages being experienced right now.
Bill Hill of the Lighthouse Club, emphasised the need to make the industry’s culture more diverse and improve conditions that support positive mental health.
The group was made up of construction companies from a number of specialisms, including joinery, waste disposal, logistics, electrical and general contracting, as well as our strong concrete structures contingent.
After some fruitful discussion, the group agreed to explore a number of issues, including:
- To collect detailed data from industry to ascertain the labour shortage issues and the impact on project delivery, particularly in line with Government priorities
- To act as one voice with the rest of the sector
- To explore a 5-year route for the immediate problems, with reduced cost and red tape, while tying each visa to an investment in domestic training (e.g. one visa, one apprentice)
- To recognise that the industry has been built on immigration – from Irish, to Polish, to Romanian – and to support the next generation of migrants who bring excellent skills that can support us with our current labour needs
- To build a ‘story’ and improve industry communication on promoting careers and opportunities within the sector to a domestic audience.
The next steps will be for a smaller working group to transition these ideas into workable solutions, and engage more widely with other trade associations and the CLC.
CONSTURCT will soon be collecting more data on the labour shortage issues that strengthen our hand with Government, and we encourage all members to have an input in the data collection.
If you would like to share your views on the discussion, or have ideas on how to improve the labour shortage, please contact Dave Campbell.