‘Government must heed skills shortages warning’

FMB chief executive calls for action after migration advisory committee findings

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The Government must include key construction roles in its Shortage Occupation List following the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) recognition of skills shortages in the construction industry, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). In a report published at the end of May, the MAC has recognised the important role the construction industry plays in the UK economy and that construction will require careful consideration in a future immigration system.

The MAC has included construction as a sector that has a number of roles in shortage that don’t meet the skills criteria to be included in the current Shortage Occupation List (SOL). Commenting on the report Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “We are pleased to see the Migration Advisory Committee’s recognition of the vital importance of the UK construction industry, the high numbers of EU workers in this sector and the increasing struggle of construction employers to find skilled workers. However, it is shocking how few construction roles were recommended to be added to the Shortage Occupation List, due to not meeting the arbitrary definition of skill level.”

Brian concluded: “With 64 per cent of construction SMEs struggling to find bricklayers and 59 per cent not being able to find quality carpenters, skill shortages continue to plague the industry. The Government should now act on the MAC’s advice and acknowledge these shortage areas in the future immigration system. If it does not, our shared ambition to address the housing shortage will not be possible.”

Commissioned by the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the MAC report highlights how employers are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit for crucial positions especially as uncertainty continues around Brexit. “Shortages of labour from falling supply could arise due to increasing retirements or decrease in the desirability of the job compared to alternatives, or, perhaps a fall in the availability of EEA migrants following the EU referendum,” The report states. MAC Chairman, Professor Alan Manning , said: “Today’s Labour market is very different to the one we reviewed when the last SOL was published in 2013. Unemployment is lower and employers in various industries are facing difficulties in finding skilled people to fill their vacancies.

“That is why we have recommended expanding the SOL to cover a range of occupations in health, information and engineering fields.” It should be noted that the current recommendations are only applicable under the current immigration system. “We are recommending a full review of the SOL once there is a clearer picture of what the future immigration system will look like,” Professor Manning said.


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