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Construction leaders call for more immigration

14 Mar 23 While government immigration policy has resulted in BBC sports pundits withdrawing their labour, the Construction Leadership Council wants border controls relaxed – at least for construction workers.

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) – itself appointed by government and co-chaired by a revolving cast of government ministers – has submitted a paper to the government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) calling for more overseas construction workers to be allowed into the UK.

The CLC wants just about all construction trades to be on the shortage occupation list for the points based immigration system.

Construction's call for a more relaxed approach to legal immigration comes as the government pushes legislation through parliament that it hopes will restrict the flow of illegal immigration. This has dominated the national news agenda of the past week after Match of the Day freelance presenter Gary Lineker said of the draft legislation, via social media platform Twitter: “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.” The ensuing political brouhaha led to him being suspended for expressing political views, despite no such sanctions ever being discussed when he criticised Qatar’s human rights record on BBC television during the FIFA World Cup last year. Fellow football pundits downed microphones in sympathy. Lineker is now set to return to work at the BBC after a climbdown by the corporation but clearer guidance on what people who appear on the BBC are allowed to say has been promised.

Against this backdrop, the topic of immigration – legal or otherwise – remains a hot-button topic.

The CLC is pressing for the following construction trades to be allowed into the UK from overseas, via the points system:

  • bricklayers and masons
  • carpenters and joiners
  • general labourers
  • ground workers
  • piling rig operatives
  • plant operatives
  • plasterers, dry liners and ceiling fixers
  • retrofit co-ordinators
  • road construction operatives
  • roofers, roof tilers and slaters
  • scaffolders, stagers and riggers
  • steel erectors
  • thermal insulators.

The CLC also recommended that building safety managers be included in the skilled worker route and proposed ideas for making access to overseas workers easier – including a clearing house model and widening the youth mobility scheme to all European Economic Area countries.

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Mark Reynolds, industry-side chair of the CLC, said: “The CLC is committed to building our domestic construction workforce and championing construction as one of the best career choices for new entrants but the fact is we are still currently facing chronic shortages. A dynamic immigration system allows us to bridge gaps in workforce need and meet the people requirement for the sector’s pipeline of work. That’s why we are calling for the inclusion of these occupations in the shortage occupation list, to help make it a little easier to access the right people, at the right time.”

Lead author of the CLC’s report was James Butcher, director of policy at the National Federation of Builders. He said: “Construction faces a vacancy rate higher than the all-industry average, so it is fair to say we are in a worse position than many other industries. The occupations we have recommended are based on a solid evidential base for the sector’s need over the next five years.”

The UK building industry needs to recruit and train 53,000 additional workers a year to meet construction demand, according to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).

Earlier this year the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) asked its members if the government should allow more skilled labour from overseas into the UK: 48% said yes to a relaxation of immigration laws and just 21% said no.

The CLC has also produced a guide to the points based immigration scheme for construction companies. It can be downloaded here.

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