UK faces post-Brexit skills crisis, construction bodies warn

A coalition of professional bodies warned on Wednesday that the UK’s skills crisis in the construction sector could get much worse if the Government does not take steps to ensure access to a skilled workforce during negotiations to leave the European Union.

Groups representing surveyors, architects, planners and builders sent a joint letter to Brexit minister David Davis outlining their concerns over skills, as well as other priorities for the UK’s post-referendum negotiations.

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) told the minister that “free movement of labour within the EU has been vital to the growth and flexibility of the construction sector”.

Continued 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 we can build the homes, businesses and infrastructure we need to compete globally, the groups said.

They also made the case for common standards with our trading partners in Europe, and for maintaining research relationships in the EU while also forging new ties with research organisations around the world.

The letter emphasised the need to tackle the UK’s “major infrastructure challenges”, citing the housing crisis and growing concerns over the country’s energy, telecoms, road, rail and airport capacity.

And the organisations called for further devolution from Whitehall across the UK, which they said would enable a rebalancing of the economy and help ensure that infrastructure spending is “efficient, timely, coordinated and accountable”.

“We are in the grip of our worst construction skills crisis in almost 20 years,” said RICS president Amanda Clack. “There is a real concern within our industry that if access to a skilled workforce is further restricted, Britain could stop building.

“My colleagues and I would urge Government to keep this at the front of their minds when they come to negotiate our withdrawal from the EU.”