The Home Office has agreed in principle to a proposal to import east Europeans to help solve the skills shortage.
The Home Office has agreed in principle to allow a recruitment agency to bring in construction workers from Romania to help solve the UK’s skills shortage.

Overseas Human Resources, of Radlett, Hertfordshire, said the Home Office had given it the green light to obtain work permits for site staff, and that it was in talks with the Construction Industry Training Board to obtain CSCS cards.

OHR has a track record in this area, having brought in nurses and senior health carers in the past. It now believes it can have the same success in the construction industry.

The firm said it would provide the Romanian construction workers with visas to get to the UK. It would also arrange flights and accommodation and pay their wages.

It said it would ensure that workers paid tax and National Insurance.

Yigal Rosenberg, a director of OHR, said his firm could bring in 3000 workers this year, assuming they received Home Office approval individually. He emphasised that the staff recruited would have the skills to do their jobs.

Rosenberg said: “The industry should be pleased that we are able to bring in properly qualified workers over here. These guys are top guys.”

In order to receive a Home Office work permit, a worker would need to prove that they were properly experienced in the trade. The worker would need to be trained to the equivalent of NVQ3 standard.

OHR insisted that staff brought in would not take the place of British workers. Director David Pearson said: “This is a small percentage of the skills needed in the UK. The Home Office ethic is not to put resident workers out of a job.”

OHR said it was considering the idea of giving the workers health and safety tests in Romania before they came over to the UK.

The CITB said it was assessing OHR’s approach. Its figures indicate that 76,000 construction staff are required between now and 2006 to meet demand. A CITB spokesperson said: “We have seen a proposal by OHR and are evaluating it. It will then be passed on to the CITB board. The proposal will have to go through proper procedures.”

The OHR initiative comes as news emerged that the government is looking favourably at ways to regularise the status of illegal immigrants who are working in the construction industry.

Strategic forum chairman Peter Rogers said he had been encouraged by talks with construction minister Brian Wilson over the issue.

Rogers said Wilson intended to write to the Home Office to raise the question. He added: “We have got to find a way of sensibly legitimising those who have been here for a long time.”

Rogers supported OHR’s idea. “It is brilliant,” he said. “I fully support it. We are an international market, particularly in the European Union.”