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Sun April 11 2021

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Ulster builders fear skills drain

10 Mar 15 The construction industry in Northern Ireland is losing its skilled workforce to mainland UK, where the economy has picked up.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is calling on the Northern Ireland executive to step up capital spending to stem the outflow of construction workers leaving the province.

Maire Nawaz, Northern Ireland director of the FMB, said: “The Northern Ireland construction industry is trailing behind the rest of the UK and we’re calling on the executive to urgently put a number of measures in place to boost workloads. While the construction sector stutters in Northern Ireland, we’re seeing stronger and more consistent growth in England, Scotland and Wales so it’s no surprise our skilled workers are being enticed over to the mainland. Our concern is, will they return to NI if and when we begin to catch up?”

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She continued: “The executive needs to rebalance capital and current spending, commit to building at least 11,000 homes a year by 2020; and provide local employment in Northern Ireland by ensuring announced construction projects actually go ahead.”

Ms Nawaz also said that building firms in Northern Ireland suffered at the hands of banks. She said: “Another key barrier to growth in the NI construction sector is access to finance – especially for construction SMEs, which are suffering from blanket discrimination by the banks, regardless of how healthy the firm’s accounts may be. NI firms want to benefit from some of the government interventions enjoyed by small construction companies in other parts of the UK. This includes the British Business Bank, which is available in England, and is designed to counteract the reluctance of banks to lend to small construction firms. The construction industry is a key driver of growth but at present, it is not being properly utilised by the Northern Ireland executive – this has to change.”

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