250,000 extra workers needed by 2028

Construction bodies have slammed Nigel Farage for “laughable” claims about migration and the sector.

Industry leaders dismissed Farage’s claim that the construction sector does not need any workers from abroad and the “myth” that builders are “unskilled”. They described remarks by the Reform UK leader as “incorrect”, arguing that he should try to “understand how construction operates and what the pressures are”.

Farage, who was made leader of right-wing party Reform UK this week, told the BBC’s Today programme on Tuesday morning (4 June) that “we literally don’t need any” construction workers to come to the UK from abroad.

He added that “physical, manual labour” is unskilled, and that “we simply cannot go on with an exploding [UK] population the way it is”.

But sector leaders hit back, accusing him of trying to “boil complex issues down to simple soundbites”.

The National Federation of Builders’ (NFB) head of policy and market insight Rico Wojtulewicz described the comments as “incorrect”.

“The majority of construction workers are from the UK, therefore cutting the supply of skilled workers that aren’t available domestically and intentionally harming the construction industry is a fool’s errand,” he said.

“Mr Farage and all parties need to understand how construction operates and what the pressures are,” he added.

The construction sector has long struggled to recruit enough workers to meet demand. Last month the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) warned the sector needs more than 250,000 extra workers by 2028 to cope with output growth.

Wojtulewicz pointed out that it takes between two and three years to train new apprentices and two further years to grow their competency.

“With […] SMEs – who train seven in 10 construction apprentices and deliver 90 per cent of training – struggling to win work and so leaving the sector, it is clear we will still need skilled workers to come from abroad,” he said.

His comments come months after the sector reacted with dismay when the current Conservative government announced plans to make legal migration to the UK tougher.

Finishes and Interiors Sector (FIS) chief executive Iain McIlwee said: “Firstly, let’s dispel any myth perpetrated that construction workers are not skilled.

“Our tradespeople are critical to our economic success and frankly the kind of dismissive approach that we heard today is exactly the reason that we do need immigration.”

He also argued that while the sector should “do more” to train its workforce, the infrastructure to train enough people “is not even close” to existing.

“We need one in 10 people to join construction, and to have politicians dismissing it as unskilled undermines the work we are doing through schools to attract people into the sector,” he said.

McIlwee also dismissed Farage’s comments that wages have gone down as “laughable”, saying: “Across the trades we have seen increases of 40 per cent-plus since Brexit.”

Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) chief executive Alasdair Reisner meanwhile said that politicians have a “habit of trying to boil complex issues down to simple soundbites”, adding that there are “few truly unskilled workers” in the sector.

“Most people who work in the sector have developed specific skill sets to deliver their roles,” he said.

Article from Construction News 

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