Training body expects sector to grow by 1.3% this year - if the UK and EU reach a Brexit deal
Construction growth is expected to increase by just 1.3% even if the UK and EU reach an agreement before the Brexit deadline next month, according to new data from the Construction Industry Training Board.
In the training body’s annual Construction Skills Network (CSN) report – a five-year forecast into the industry’s skills needs – it predicted construction growth of 1.3% across the UK, down a third of a percent on the previous year.
But this is based on a scenario where the UK agrees an exit deal with the EU, rather than leaving without a deal.
The strongest growth is expected to come from the public housing sector with financial support from the government at both local and national levels set to yield 3.2% growth rate in public housing. This is up half a percent on last year’s forecast.
Infrastructure is set to grow by 1.9%, down from 3.1% predicted in last year’s forecast, with the CITB saying the sector had been heavily affected by Brexit uncertainty and by investors stalling construction of the Welsh nuclear power plant Wylfa.
Commercial construction has also been hit hard, with investors taking a cautious stance in the face of Brexit. The forecast predicted the sector to drop sharply this year then level out by 2023, with zero growth anticipated overall.
The forecast also predicted that around 168,500 construction jobs are to be created in the UK over the next five years, 10,000 more than in last year’s forecast.
Given this, the CITB along with other industry bodies has published a plan to help brace the sector for tighter migration controls after Brexit.
The scheme, Building After Brexit: An Action Plan for Industry, recommends that construction to adopt a "twin-track strategy" by growing investment in the domestic workforce and driving up productivity, while working with the government to agree how to maintain access to migrant workers.
The action plan details specific steps the construction industry, the government and CITB must take to lessen the impact of Brexit.
Steve Radley, policy director at CITB, said: "The latest forecast has revealed over 168,000 new jobs will be created over the next five years and with a likely post-Brexit reduction to the availability of foreign workers, the industry must act now to avoid widening the skills gaps.
"We must do more to attract new talent to the sector and get better at retaining and upskilling the current workforce. Finally, the sector must fully embrace digital skills in order to become more productive and mitigate the widening skills gap."
- Attract talent by raising apprenticeship starts and completions, creating pathways into construction for under-represented groups and providing better work experience opportunities.
- Retain the workforce by supporting older workers to stay in the industry, upskilling the existing workforce and offering improved mental health support.
- Be productive by developing a Future Skills Strategy to identify the skills required to modernise the industry, drive digitalisation forward and boost investment in modern methods of construction.