Construction workers think Brexit will hit government infrastructure projects and ‘intensify skills crisis’, research shows

More than 80 per cent of construction workers believe Brexit will damage the UK’s industry and prevent high-profile government infrastructure projects from being delivered, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Birmingham City University have been examining the views of people working in the sector to see how they believe jobs, projects and industry will be impacted by Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The results revealed that 88 per cent of workers believed the UK relied upon EU skilled labour and that 82 per cent thought exiting the EU would lead to the collapse of many government infrastructure projects.

The findings also showed that 86 per cent of workers expected to see a rise in demand for skilled workers following Brexit, while 92 per cent thought freedom of movement was beneficial to the UK’s construction industry.

More than 50 businesses gave feedback for the research project with one respondent saying:

“I believe that this (Brexit) will lead to an intensification of the current skills crisis and could well lead to increases in labour and project costs.”

The study was led by Marwan Mohamed a recent Built Environment graduate from Birmingham City University alongside Erika Pärn, Lecturer in Architectural Technology at Birmingham City University.

The research entitled: Brexit: measuring the impact upon skilled labour in the UK construction industry was produced as part of the final year Honours Research Project (Dissertation).

It has since been published in the leading scientific peer-reviewed research journal, International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation.

Marwan Mohamed said:

“This research deals with a topical, historic and unprecedented matter that is currently shrouding the UK construction sector.”

“It concludes that the UK construction sector relies upon EU skilled labour, that there is widespread industry opposition to Brexit, and that many within the sector believe Brexit will reduce the supply of skilled labour from the EU rather than increase or enhance it.”

“The paper therefore provides pragmatic recommendations to policy makers and higher education institutes to prevent the risk of Brexit further exacerbating skilled labour shortages within the industry.”

The research also showed that 90 per cent thought that other EU countries would be more attractive for migrant workers following Brexit and that 88 per cent felt a labour shortage would affect the UK’s construction industry.

Another respondent said:

“I definitely agree that Brexit will impact upon skilled labour coming to this country to work.”

The paper outlines possible solutions to both a potential reduction in skilled labour moving to the UK following Brexit and the limited numbers of young people entering the construction industry.

Recommendations include: 

  • Retaining free movement by remaining in the European Economic Area
  • Retaining current workers through increasing wages, providing guaranteed overtime and reducing physical exertion by expanding the use of technology
  • Creating more apprenticeship opportunities
  • Improving the image of a career in construction to appeal more to young people.

Erika Pärn, Lecturer in Architectural Technology, said:

“The publication of this work has not only grabbed the attention and interest of academic audience but also seeks to engage the industry awareness and generate debate on this pressing matter affecting a plethora of the built environment professionals.”

“Marwan Mohamed, a recent graduate from Birmingham City University has captured in his work the important factors affecting skilled labour during a historic and unprecedented moment in the UK construction industry.”

“This work provides pragmatic recommendations to policy makers and Higher Education Institutions to prevent the risk of Brexit further exacerbating skilled labour shortages within the industry.”

“Moreover, Marwan has achieved exceptional success by publishing into an established international scientific peer review journal, having recently graduated from his undergraduate studies. ”

“This is noteworthy success for the School of the Built Environment and for our growing number of outstanding alumni.”

Construction and Built Environment courses will be showcased during Birmingham City University’s Open Day on Saturday 14 October.

The project has been supervised by Dr David J. Edwards, Professor of Plant and Machinery Management at Birmingham City University.