The UK construction sector could lose over 200,000 workers if a hard Brexit occurs, according to a report by Arcadis.
The consultancy firm said that even a soft Brexit could cost the sector 135,000 workers.
If the UK adopts a points-based system for all migrants coming to the country it will make it harder for construction workers in the EU to qualify to enter Britain to work on a permanent basis. The country could end up struggling to replace foreign construction workers leaving at the same rate.
Hard Brexit is one of the ways the United Kingdom could separate itself from the European Union – the other way is with a Soft Brexit. Both terms refer to the closeness or distance of Britain’s relationship with the EU after the divorce has been completed.
James Bryce, of Arcadis, said: “What started as a skills gap could soon become a skills gulf. The British construction sector has been built on overseas labour for generations, and restrictions of any sort will hit the industry.
“Missing out on over 200,000 people entering the workforce could mean rising costs for business and much-needed homes and transport networks being delayed.”
“In recent decades, there has been a massive push towards tertiary education which has seen a big drop in the number of British people with the specific skills we need. If we cannot import the right people, we will need to quickly ramp up training and change the way we build.”
“Be it hard or soft Brexit, we need to take back control of the construction industry. The likes of robotics and off-site manufacturing have never been taken as seriously as they should, but they could well prove the difference. So, too, could training,” said Bryce at Arcadis.
“Working with schools and colleges is one way of taking control but this takes time. In the short term retraining and turning to the unemployed and underemployed could be a significant benefit to an industry under significant pressure.”