Some concerning news reported yesterday in consultancy firm Arcadis’ report on the potential impact of “Hard” and “Soft” Brexit on the number of EU nationals working in the UK construction sector in the next 5 years, coming as is does a week after the Chancellor’s autumn statement committing an extra £23 billion over the next 5 years to finance new infrastructure that, it was made clear, is critical to our economic prosperity post-Brexit.
According to the research, which assumes that EU migrants would be subject to the same points-based system that’s currently in place for non-EU migrants, the industry is at risk of losing as many as 214,000 EU nationals from the sector following a “hard” Brexit reducing to 136,000 following a “soft” Brexit between now and 2020. Neither figure appears especially attractive.
There is the view that we’ll be able to train and develop our own people to replace those that are lost, but whether we’ll be able to do that in the period of the next 5 years (the period covered in the survey and the period during which the new infrastructure is to be delivered) or not, remains an open question.
If our economy is to benefit fully from the increased funding being made available to pay for new infrastructure, we’ll need to be able to source the additional skills that will be required to deliver it, and if the Arcadis research’s findings are accurate, that task just became infinitely more difficult.
While nothing about the outcome of Brexit is certain, the Arcadis research suggests a potentially significant threat to the construction industry ability to attract the talent it needs. If this is how events pan out, how do we as an industry square that circle?