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Industry lobby groups unite on skills gap issue

Construction lobby groups are calling on the Select Committee to urge the Government to tackle the skills crisis facing the industry. Tom Hardacre, Amicus construction lead, said this is a major problem. “It is widely recognised throughout the industry that, in the near future, there is going to be a major requirement for skilled workers,” he said. “Demographics have identified that the current baby boomers will be retiring in the next 3 or 4 years. There is going to be a need to fill the skills gap that is going to develop and to meet the amount of construction work that is going to be available in the near future.” Mr Hardacre said it was short sighted to assume that by using migrant labour, the industry could avert the crisis. “There has been the importation of a tremendous amount of labour, particularly from Eastern Europe. Now we know that labour won’t be around in the next few years because of the infrastructure that is being developed in those countries that have recently joined the European Union. “Construction Labour Research reports have identified that that there will be a major requirement for construction labour from these countries in the near future. Eastern European workers will return home and these workers will be closely followed by British Labour,” he added. He said the Select Committee should recommend that the industry make training, and providing adequate budgets to meet that training, a requirement. Health and Safety should be reformed, and bogus self-employment should be addressed. Alan Ritchie, general secretary with the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, agreed. “The Select Committee has a golden opportunity to examine the iniquities and perversions of the Construction Industry Scheme and the bogus self-employment which afflicts our industry. “Bogus self-employment creates the conditions in which migrant workers are exploited. It also means that firms do not employ and train the workers of the future. Major construction projects including the Olympics will not be a success unless these problems are tackled.” Mark Brenner, Building Engineering Services Training chief executive, said: “By stating that its is looking at the UK dependence on imported labour and expertise, this inquiry provides a very timely and useful focus on the range of skills within the UK construction sector. The UK skills base is largely behind countries like Germany and Denmark, and unless something is done to address this issue very soon, the UK will be left behind these countries. The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers said it hoped the inquiry would put forward recommendations on sustainability and investment in skills, to ensure a sustainable future for the industry and its professionals.