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Migration and construction - The view from employers, recruiters and non–UK born workers in 2019

Non UK-born workers have long played a key role in Britain’s construction sector. They currently account for 14% of our workforce (54% in London) and give employers flexibility to respond to their skills needs, particularly the demand for ‘low-skilled’ workers.

CITB’s new report Migration and construction: The view from employers, recruiters and non–UK born workers in 2019 examines the possible impact of proposed visa restrictions, as outlined in the Government’s White Paper The UK's future skills-based immigration system.

The report, published on October 3 2019, updates CITB’s previous migration research in July 2018.

Commenting on the new report, CITB Policy Director, Steve Radley said: “The industry is gearing up to face this challenge by training more home-grown workers. The intention is to have an extra 44,000 more British-based people in construction by 2025. This will be achieved through a mix of growing apprenticeships and widening the pool of talent, retaining more workers in the sector for longer, and exploiting technological advances.”

Our new report found that:

  • 70% of employers of non-UK born construction workers see the ‘low-skilled’ visa for people with level 2 qualifications unsuitable for their business. In particular, the 12 month time limit would be too short because training new workers will take much of that time, and many projects last longer than a year.
  • non-UK born workers are keen to ‘train to remain’. 61% of migrants say they would choose to move from a ‘low’ to a ‘high’ skilled visa while continuing to work in the UK. Over 43% of migrant workers are just one qualification level away from being able to do this. 
  • approaching half (41%) of EU migrant workers in construction are self-employed who, under current plans, may be lost to the sector because there is no visa system to cover them. CITB is working with government and key industry players, such as the Construction Leadership Council, to develop an ‘Umbrella Sponsorship’ scheme that will allow this vital group to obtain visas. 

Read the press release Construction needs breathing space on post-Brexit visas.