Dismore questions Mayor over construction skills shortage

At today’s London Assembly Plenary considering the Mayor’s draft Housing Strategy Andrew Dismore AM, Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, questioned London Mayor Sadiq Khan over need to address London’s construction industry skills shortage in light of Brexit.

Mr Dismore asked the Mayor:

‘London’s construction industry workforce is facing a perfect storm. We have an ageing workforce on the one hand; and on the other far too few young people are attracted to work in the sector, matched by the long-standing failure of employers to offer sufficient apprenticeships and training opportunities. As a result, London is dependent on migrant building workers with more than half the workforce being from the EU and beyond.  With Brexit rapidly approaching, how will your housing strategy ensure that London has enough construction workers with the right skills to ensure that that we can build the homes that you have correctly indentified London need?

The Mayor said that this scary picture was worse when considering that of the UK-born construction workers, 10-20% are due to retire in the next 5 years. EU nationals are making plans to return home, and others are not coming. We need to both train up people here and get a good deal with the EU for people to come.

Deputy Mayor for Housing James Murray said the Mayor’s Construction Academy would prioritise underrepresented groups and organisations can bid to be part of the scheme. In new developments, section 106 conditions can include local labour requirements as a way of getting young people into jobs.

After the Plenary, Mr Dismore added:

‘London needs 66,000 new homes a year to address years of underinvestment and a chronic housing shortage yet the number of apprentices started in the construction sector only account for 4% of all apprenticeship starts in 2016/17. There are not enough people with the skills that London’s construction industry needs, nor enough people who want to choose it for a career.

‘In 2016, 47% of construction employers reported difficulties in seeking to fill vacancies. This figure is likely to increase if firms cannot access EU workers and not enough young people are being trained. The GLA estimates suggest that between 2,500 and 4,000 new workers will be needed in each year to meet additional demands on the industry.

‘Construction is facing a ticking time bomb caused by this skills shortage, aging workforce and potential difficulties in accessing workers from the EU. More than a quarter of London’s construction workers are from the EU and they face an uncertain future due to Brexit. IPPR found that if the system for non-EU migrants was applied to EU-nationals, just 7% of current EU-born employees in construction in the UK would have been eligible to come here for work.

‘These factors have the potential severely to undermine London’s ability to deliver the houses and infrastructure that London requires.’