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Professional bodies warn Government of UK’s construction skills crisis

Posted: 15th September 2016

A coalition of professional bodies representing the construction and built environment sectors have warned Brexit Minister, David Davis, that the UK’s construction skills crisis could severely worsen, if the Government does not take steps to ensure access to a skilled workforce during its post-referendum negotiations.

This warning was issued by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) who wrote to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and outlined their concerns around skills, as well as five other priorities that the UK Government should focus on in light of the UK’s Brexit vote. They are:

  • ACCESS TO SKILLS - The greatest strength of the sector is the skill of its workforce. The free movement of labour within the EU has been vital to the growth and flexibility of the construction sector. Access to a skilled workforce of the highest quality and a focus on developing the next generation of home-grown talent are critical to ensure that the UK is able to build the homes, businesses and infrastructure needed to compete globally. The Government was urged to explore options and approaches to ensure that this access is not impeded to the detriment of the built environment.
  • COMMON STANDARDS – The UK has much to gain from pursuing an approach that makes it easier to do business with trading partners new and old. Access to markets in the EU and around the world has transformed the UK construction sector. The mutual recognition of qualifications and the development of common technical standards have reduced the barriers faced by professionals working abroad. Reducing tariffs and harmonising standards have helped UK firms of all sizes expand to Europe and beyond. These common approaches have also meant that UK businesses can support best-practice in environmental and product standards, supporting efforts on global issues such as climate change. It is imperative that governments in the UK protect and promote the UK’s role as a leader in environmental and consumer protection standards.
  • RESEARCH EXCELLENCE – The professions have benefitted from the collaborative research that the EU has enabled and promoted. Future success depends on maintaining these relationships, while forging new ties with research organisations around the world. In addition the continued success of the UK’s world class university courses training young people in the built environment is essential to the underpinning of research and the continued supply of labour for construction and allied activities.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT - The UK’s global competitiveness will be hampered unless more is done to tackle the major infrastructure challenges we face. With a housing crisis, and growing concerns around energy, telecoms, road, rail and airport capacity, UK Governments must seek and entice prospective investors to consider infrastructure of all kinds. Providing confidence to the construction industry through infrastructure funding and development will provide stability during a period of uncertainty and ensure that the UK is well-placed to take advantage of growth opportunities in the future.
  • DEVOLUTION COMMITMENT- The referendum has brought divide between the different parts of the UK into sharp focus. The recent commitment to continuing the Northern Powerhouse is welcomed and further devolution from Whitehall should be a key priority for the UK government as powers move from the European Commission. Devolution will enable a rebalancing of the economy so that all parts of the UK can benefit from any new opportunities arising from the UK’s new relationship with the European Union, and is an effective way of ensuring infrastructure spending is efficient, timely, coordinated and accountable
  • COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT - The extensive skills and experience of built environment professionals make them best-placed to advise on how the built environment can unlock new opportunities and combat existing challenges, as well as provide places for people to live, work and play. Leaving the EU could present a great opportunity for the UK, but it should not be associated with a drive to the bottom in the environmental and building standards which future generations will live with.