Brexit fears hailed as one factor in skills shortage affecting the construction industry and allied trades

Plumbers Skills Shortage image by Vladimir Badaev (via Shutterstock).

Spare Hands Wanted, but where from? Uncertainty has put off some SME sector businesses from hiring new plumbers. With Britain likely to leave the EU, immigration policies shall make hiring new staff more difficult. Image by Vladimir Badaev (via Shutterstock).

A skills shortage that has affected the construction industry has begun to affect the sector’s allied trades, according to a survey published by Federation of Master Builders. Of the fifteen trades affected, 40% of them have been gravely affected. Particularly plumbers and electricians. It was revealed by 46% of SME construction firms that they had difficulty hiring new staff.

A contributory factor to this could be Brexit, namely Theresa May’s decision to go for a Hard Brexit. At present, contractors can live and work in the European Union Member States as an EU or EEA (European Economic Area) citizen. With the Prime Minister’s preference, Hard Brexit could mean leaving the Customs Union and an end to freedom of movement among EU citizens. In other words, an immigration clampdown. With the uncertainty, fewer construction projects.

The skills shortage has been going for a number of years, according to Brian Berry, the Chief Executive of the FMB. He said on The Construction Index website: “We’ve been experiencing a severe shortage of bricklayers and carpenters for quite some time – these latest statistics show that skills shortages are now seeping into other key trades such as roofers and plumbers.

“Indeed, of the 15 key trades and occupations we monitor, 40% show skills shortages at their highest point since we started to feel the effects of the skills crisis in 2013 when the industry bounced back post-downturn. This growing skills deficit is driving up costs for small firms and simultaneously adding to the pressure being felt by soaring material prices linked to the weaker pound.”

ST Heating Services, 25 January 2017.

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