Fears that Brexit decision will worsen construction skills crisis

The UK’s construction skills crisis could worsen if steps are not taken to ensure access to a skilled workforce during post-referendum negotiations, professional bodies have warned.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) have written to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, outlining their concerns around skills.

Along with access to skills, they have suggested the UK Government should focus on common standards, research excellence, infrastructure investment, devolution commitment and community development during Brexit negotiations.

RICS president Amanda Clack said: “Recent RICS figures have shown that we are in the grip of our worst construction skills crisis in almost 20 years. There is a real concern within our industry that, if access to a skilled workforce is further restricted, Britain could stop building. My colleagues and I would urge Government to keep this at the front of their minds when they come to negotiate our withdrawal from the EU.

“We know that infrastructure and construction investment is key to Britain’s economic growth. The uncertainty that immediately followed the referendum outcome led to a decline in economic growth, increased market volatility and a reduction in UK infrastructure investment. While the initial post-Brexit slump appears to have stabilised, it is important that the Government focuses on maintaining infrastructure and construction investment leading up to, and after, Brexit, ensuring the right conditions are in place to attract infrastructure investors in all sectors across the UK.

“As we approach an unprecedented period of uncertainty, it is fundamental the Government prioritises infrastructure and it remains at the forefront of maintaining a strong economy.”

RIBA president Jane Duncan said: “UK architecture, surveying, town planning and construction are flexible and innovative professions. I’m confident our members can help deliver strong economic growth in the UK, providing the buildings and infrastructure that meet the needs of our communities.

“With the right actions taken by Government to address our industries’ joint priorities, we can tackle the challenges and exploit the opportunities that Brexit will bring. But unless we fix the housing crisis, and address the economic imbalances in our economy, the UK won’t be in a position to compete internationally.”

Stephen Wilkinson, vice-president of the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: “The UK is a world leader in environmental and building standards and in the professions involved in them. UK’s town planning expertise and university courses are among the most sought-after in the world. Leaving the EU could present a great opportunity for the UK, but it should not be associated with a drive to the bottom in the environmental and building standards which future generations will live with.”

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