Brexit committee to hear about impact on construction industry

An ageing work force, regional competition for labour and increased demand for workers on house building sites all contribute to a continuing shortage of skilled construction workers – and that’s before the impact of Brexit takes effect.

That’s the picture the city’s new Brexit, Infrastructure and legislative Change Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be getting as it meets to explore the possible impact of Brexit on the construction trade.

The committee will hear evidence from operations director of Kier, Brian Rice on the demands of the industry as well as look at some of the ways the city can address possible skills shortage.

A report to the committee, which meets on 4 July, highlights the city’s Our Building Programme as one measure to address the skills shortage but warns that future demand is likely to increase if the city is to meet its new homes targets and other capital programmes.

A paper going to the committee on July 4 gives a snapshot of the current situation for key areas of employment and the issues they face as result of the Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

  • Higher education – The University of Plymouth has 622 FTE of 3,300 staff covering 735 positions. Changes to visa requirements or restricted numbers of visas will impact on future recruitment particularly in disciplines where EU staff are particularly common (e.g. Economics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Medicine)
  • Manufacturing – Plymouth has the highest concentration of manufacturing and engineering employment of any city in the South of England. Locally, manufacturing accounts for 16 per cent of the economy and 13 per cent of the labour market. There is a large EEA worker presence – between 15 and 25 per cent, with food processing and other industries have a significant requirement for low skilled labour. It is not clear how companies would replace this labour if lower-skilled EU migrants were not granted access.
  • Health and Social Care – recruitment was already problematic before the referendum. In December 2015 organisations with nursing staff reported 10 percent vacancy, 93 per cent of NHS trusts said they experienced registered nurse supply shortages and 63 per cent of those surveyed had actively recruited from EU countries, mainly Spain, Italy and Portugal. Care providers report that most applicants are from EEA countries. One local college has almost 500 people signed up this year for English language classes and expect most to seek work in the care sector.
  • Hospitality and tourism – has the highest proportion of EU/ EEA workers: 14.2 per cent of workers in accommodation and food services are EU nationals. Much of the work in the tourism sector is seasonal with low entry requirements. Our Mayflower 400 programme is likely to create additional demand for tourism jobs as it seeks to increase the number of visitors by 1 million by 2020.
  • The agriculture, forestry and food sector also employs significant numbers of EU migrant workers. Skills shortages in these areas would have limited direct effect on Plymouth but lead to higher food prices.

As well as exploring the challenges the committee will also look at what the local Council and its partners can do to grow, keep and attract a skilled workforce now and in the future.

Ideas include obtaining greater control of careers’ advice and guidance to improving skills and addressing current and future skills gaps, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The city is also working with Heart of the South West partners to establish a local Skills Advisory Panel to providing local labour market intelligence and regional outcomes data.

Other measures include devolving funding in areas such as adult education and employment support programmes to better target the local needs and challenges.

Watch the committee here