Building After Brexit – what can the industry be doing now?

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

With the EU exit deadline looming at the end of this month, the industry has devised an emergency plan to help prepare for whatever is to come.

‘Building After Brexit: An Action Plan for Industry’ identifies the need for construction to adopt a twin-track strategy: develop a home-grown workforce to reduce reliance on immigrant labour; and keep lobbying government for construction industry exemptions.

Recommendations include:

  • Attract talent by raising apprenticeship starts and completions, creating pathways into construction for under-represented groups including women, those with disabilities, those from an ethnic minority group and the LGBT community as well as providing better work experience opportunities.
  • Retain the workforce by supporting older workers to stay in the industry, upskilling the existing workforce and offering more support to tackle major issues affecting the industry, such as mental health.
  • Be productive by developing a Future Skills Strategy to identify the skills required to modernise the industry, drive digitalisation forward and boost investment in modern methods of construction.

The recommendations are what we already know we need to do, it’s just a case of seeing it through. The single biggest issue has been the same for a number of years now, the skills shortage. If we’re going to address the skills gap post-Brexit, the industry needs to step up and expand their training initiatives. We must simply do more to attract new talent, get better at retaining and upskilling the current workforce and embrace digital skills to be more productive.

The plan has been put together by the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), the Construction Products Association, the Federation of Master Builders, the Home Builders Federation and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), under the leadership of the Construction Leadership Council.

The latest forecast has revealed over 168,000 new jobs will be created over the next five years and with a likely post-Brexit reduction to the availability of foreign workers, it’s important that we act now to avoid widening the skills gaps. We need to work together and work with government to target these gaps because we really can’t afford to lose skilled workers. With access to a huge chunk of the workforce potentially about to be lost, we’ve got to work smarter. You really can’t fault the industry for its efforts in driving digitalisation and modern methods of construction, but we need to focus on delivering a Future Skills Strategy; going forward it’s skills we’re going to need.

Hopefully this time next month we’ll know more but one thing’s for sure, the journey towards Brexit certainly hasn’t been an easy one and sadly I don’t think it’s anywhere near over yet.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk