UK Government take on BITA members’ call to relax immigration rules for skilled building trades

UK Government call to relax the immigration rules for building trades

One of the UK’s leading non-profit business organisation, the British and Irish Trading Alliance (BITA), has welcomed the decision by the UK Government’s official independent advisory body on migration issues to address chronic labour shortages across the construction sector.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has recommended that five skilled building trades will now be added to its shortage occupation list, providing visas for overseas workers. These include bricklayers and masons, roofers, roof tilers and slaters, carpenters and joiners, construction and building trades, and plasterers.

UK Government advisers have spoken to industry stakeholders and representative bodies about the ongoing labour shortage and recruitment problems of the country’s building industry.

Over a period of 18 months, BITA members have highlighted the fact that a lack of skilled trades, such as bricklayers, represented both a perfect storm for the UK building sector, as well as a serious obstacle to the UK’s economic growth prospects.

Bridie Cunningham, Chair of the organisation’s London branch, assisted in bringing the issue to policymakers. “We listened to our members and decided we had to act. Our members were telling us loud and clear that this was an issue directly affecting, not just their business, but society as well. It’s thanks to their collective efforts and by working together that we’ve made a difference,” she said.

Paul Whitnell, President & Founder of BITA, added that in July 2021, the business brought together a coalition of industry practitioners, educational training charities, and a range of other representative trade bodies to find common ground. “I’m pleased to say that by working together, we have been able to make a difference. This is direct proof of our ethos that we can help more people and influence further as a collective.”

BITA collected evidence from its members, which emphasized the urgency of the situation and that labour shortages were not a short-term obstacle, but a long-term problem. It highlighted that over the next decade, more than half a million UK born construction workers are due to retire, while more than two hundred thousand new construction workers are needed by 2025 just to meet the existing demand.

Its official proposal also emphasised the importance of cross-sector training initiatives and skills development. One of the bodies that united with BITA in their campaign was the construction industry charity, Lighthouse Club.

Bill Hill CEO of Lighthouse Club said, “a career in construction is highly rewarding. It requires creativity and offers real financial rewards. While we need foreign workers now the long-term solution is to further improve training opportunities and investment in apprenticeships,” he said.