Following the publication of the Construction Skills Network (CSN) report, Professor Linda Clarke, Professor of European Industrial Relations at Westminster Business School, believes the future for construction, and particularly for construction labour, looks bleak, especially in light of Brexit:
“The Construction Skills Network (CSN) forecasts a worrying outlook for construction activity over the next five years, hugely dependent on infrastructure projects and needing over 35,000 new construction workers every year. However, their forecasts are based on a demand-based model which bears no relation to supply, such as the amount of training taking place, which means that there is no attempt to try to link demand and supply.
Elsewhere in Europe, standards are higher as construction workers qualify to at least the equivalent of National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 3 qualification, whereas in Britain most construction trainees only achieve NVQ level 2.
“There are several problems with this method and with the forecasts. The first is the assumption of a relation between a particular occupational requirement and a particular type of output. However, if productivity falls, as it has been doing, then this relation no longer holds. Given the decline in levels of training and the threats posed by Brexit to recruiting skilled workers from the rest of Europe, we should expect productivity in the UK to fall rather severely.
“Elsewhere in Europe, standards are higher as construction workers qualify to at least the equivalent of National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 3 qualification, whereas in Britain most construction trainees only achieve NVQ level 2. In terms of migration and the Brexit threat to free movement of labour, the ability to make up for this training deficit by recruiting skilled workers from elsewhere in Europe is curtailed.
“A second problem with the recruitment predictions is that they rely on the standard occupational classification, which is particularly problematic in terms of construction occupations. So, unless a miracle happens – such as a massive injection of funds into further education colleges, training workshops, and the introduction of a comprehensive VET programme of at least three years duration to equip young people for a rewarding and productive working life ahead – the future for construction, and particularly for construction labour, looks bleak.”