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Steel erectors, scaffolders and plant operators kept off shortage occupation list

15 Mar 23 Five construction trade categories are being added to the shortage occupation list to open them up to immigrant workers.

Not on the list
Not on the list

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended that bricklayers/masons, roofers/roof tilers/slaters), carpenters/joiners), plasters/dryliners and the more general category of construction and building trades n.e.c (SOC code 5319) all be added to the shortage occupation list (SOL). The government has accepted this recommendation.

However, also in line with MAC advice, steel erectors, scaffolders and plant operators are not being added to the list. Nor are road construction operatives, construction operatives n.e.c. (except dryliners) or elementary construction operations.  Or at least, not yet anyway. This is an interim position, to be revisited later in the year.

The MAC said: “We do not recommend the addition of 5311 (Steel erectors) to the SOL, as based on projected pay growth it is likely that this occupation’s pay will be high enough for most jobs to meet the general threshold and therefore there is little justification for a SOL salary discount, which would risk undercutting domestic workers’ pay.”

Because the construction sector has not used the skilled worker route (the points system) for employing migrant labour very much so far, the MAC said. “This suggests that placing these occupations on the SOL is unlikely to lead to a very substantial rise in visa applications, at least in the short run,” it said. “The MAC would not consider such low uptake as a failure of the policy, but more a reflection of the fact that recruiting foreign workers may not be an effective solution for many employers. However, that does not prevent it being an effective solution for other employers.”

Eddie Tuttle, director of policy, external affairs and research at the Chartered Institute of Building, said: “The construction industry continues to face numerous skills shortages, resulting from a mixture of lack of new entrants, to skilled professionals reaching retirement age. This is why migration continues to be a necessity for construction, helping dampen the harmful effects of having a volatile labour market.

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“We are therefore pleased that… the government has accepted the Migration Advisory Committee’s interim recommendations to initially add five construction occupations to the shortage occupation list ahead of its wider SOL review concluding in autumn 2023, with reviews taking place more regularly.

“CIOB has been working with a consortium of trade and professional bodies in the built environment to inform the MAC on these skills gaps and shortages and hopes that the government will continue to listen to the advice of the sector.”

Federation of Master Builders (FMB) chief executive Brian Berry said: “It’s good to see the government listening to the FMB and other industry stakeholders about the current skills shortages. Adding trades such as bricklayers and carpenters to the shortage of occupation list delivers on calls from the construction industry. Recent data from the FMB state of trade survey reveals that 60% of jobs are stalled due to labour shortages. The construction sector needs at least 225,000 additional workers by 2027 to meet demand, and many more if we are to tackle energy efficiency improvements to homes.”

The interim MAC review can be found at

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