As the latest figures show that EU net migration to the UK has plummeted to its lowest level since 2012, a leading construction boss warns that if the sector fails to innovate, firms will stand no chance in plugging an inevitable increasing skills gap.
Scape Group chief executive Mark Robinson highlights Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) as an immediate solution to the impending challenge of finding the right skills to deliver much-needed infrastructure projects across the UK.
His comments come after it was revealed this week that 219,000 EU citizens arrived in the UK, as 145,000 left. There were 74,000 more EU citizens who came to the UK than people leaving for other EU countries. This was the lowest estimate for EU net immigration since 2012 and the lowest immigration level since 2014.
Madeleine Sumption, the director of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, said EU migrants have been leaving in larger numbers since the referendum, while net inflows have greatly decreased.
“The lower value of the pound is likely to have made the UK a less attractive place to live and work and economic conditions in several of the top countries of origin for EU migrants have improved,” she added.
While Scape’s boss has welcomed some initiatives by the government to address skills shortages, he believes the latest immigration statistics identify the need for the construction industry to innovate.
Robinson said: “The government is going some way to tackling the domestic skills gap with construction T-levels, spending more than £500m a year on new-style technical courses that offer an alternative route than A-levels into many careers and pledging £204m of funding for innovation and skills in the construction sector, including training a workforce to build new houses, and £34m to scale up innovative training models across the country.
“This is a positive step forward and vital for a sector where capacity, simply cannot be stretched any further. But these initiatives will not plug the growing skills gap overnight, they are arguably too little too late for an issue that has been on the horizon for some time, especially if we lose access to a labour pool consisting of 500 million people next year.”
This is why Robinson believes modern construction techniques are vital moving forward with the construction leader claiming that by using MMC, it is possible to build up to four times as many homes with the onsite labour required for a traditional build.