the build up to brexit.

As Brexit uncertainty intensifies, opinion is mixed as to the impact on the construction sector and what level of growth we can expect in 2019. Only six months ago, the Construction Products Association was forecasting that output would rise by 2.3%. However they now anticipate a rise of only 0.3% amidst ongoing negotiations.

the latest on brexit

10,000 construction workers

surveyed by Randstad.

As Brexit uncertainty intensifies, opinion is mixed as to the impact on the construction sector and what level of growth we can expect in 2019. Only six months ago, the Construction Products Association was forecasting that output would rise by 2.3%. However they now anticipate a rise of only 0.3% amidst ongoing negotiations.

Despite this, there is room for certain sectors to boom. Private housing is still high on the agenda; with the extension of the government’s help-to-buy scheme to 2023, housebuilders will still be in need to skilled labour. The 2018 budget unveiled plans to allocate an additional £500m into its housebuilding fund to bolster production of new homes across the country. At the other end of the spectrum, the UK’s high end infrastructure projects will enable the sector to reach its highest levels driven by projects such as HS2, Thames Tideway and Hinkley Point C.

Regardless of the deal that is decided on, the demand for labour will not diminish. It is important for companies to plan ahead and be ready for any impact on the UK labour force, in a world post Brexit. To help understand the scale of the potential talent migration, the world’s leading recruiter, Randstad, surveyed over 10,000 construction workers to understand their perceptions, intentions and motives.    

will they stay or will they go?

It’s the question on everyone’s lips, will there be a mass exodus? Recent ONS data revealed that 7% of construction workers in the UK and over a quarter of London’s construction workforce coming from other EU countries. This is equates to a significant slice of the construction talent pie.

The reality is that nearly one in three (32%) EU nationals have considered leaving the UK because of the Brexit referendum. Whilst that figure may be smaller than originally anticipated, the reality is that one third of the EU construction workforce could still down tools in the UK come spring. More importantly, it’s during a period when the construction industry is already feeling the ever-growing pressure of the sector skills shortage.

time to tap up the talent.

When faced with a skills chasm, it’s imperative to tap into all the talent pools available. When it comes to EU nationals considering leaving the UK, 1 in 5 are undecided as to whether they’ll stay or leave. This signals a prized opportunity for the industry and employers to harness and retain a sizeable proportion of their existing workforce. The question is, is it too little too late?

Randstad’s survey found that the industry still has time to make change. Of those EU nationals who have already considered leaving the UK, 81% questioned said they wouldn’t consider leaving until after 29th March. This marks a period where there’s a real battle to win the war on talent, futureproof the UK’s construction skills and inject stability during a tense time of uncertainty.  

when there’s joined-up thinking.  

Interestingly, Randstad’s survey also reveals a powerful disconnect between the perceived motivators to leave the UK versus the reality. UK citizens believe that the main reason behind EU nationals wanting to leave is uncertainty around Visas (39%). The truth is that it’s the potential drop in construction projects, and subsequent funding and jobs, that’s the biggest driving force at 39%. This is followed by uncertainty over trade deals with the EU (19%), with uncertainty over Visas only accounting for 16%. How can the sector use this to their advantage? This insight is critical to worker communications.  

1 in 5 are undecided as to whether they’ll stay or leave

81% wouldn’t consider leaving until after 29th March

32% EU nationals have considered 

 leaving the UK

because of the Brexit referendum.

latest on brexit

39% of workers will leave due to uncertainty around construction projects, funding and jobs.

At times of uncertainty the prospect of change can be daunting and assumptions can all too hastily be made. Employers need to ensure they truly listen to their workforce. Jumping to conclusions can quickly snowball into organisations spending valuable time and energy on problems that don’t necessarily exist. By having a more robust understanding of workers’ perceptions, a targeted retention plan can be cultivated.

Owen Goodhead, Managing Director of Randstad Construction Property & Engineering

5.3% increase

construction materials price.

numbers that crunch themselves.

Scratch the surface and this makes sense. At the time of drafting these findings, the Home Office had issued a statement confirming that, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, those EU citizens working in the UK on 11pm on 29th March 2019 would still be entitled to apply for Settled Status. Those impacted can readily sign up for alerts to stay informed by a credible source. Theresa May has also scrapped the £65 fee EU citizens were going to have to pay to help secure the right to continue living in the UK in the future. For low-skilled workers managing a smaller disposable income, this is welcome news.

With £10bn of the UK’s building materials coming from the EU, it’s those figures that are causing concern. This includes £1bn including of timber and £750m of aluminium products, equating to 15% of products used in UK construction according to Build UK. The construction materials price index increased 5.3% on the year in January, forcing up the cost of net imports from the EU. Aside of the cost, the construction industry has also raised concerns over the potential speed of imports post-Brexit. News stories reporting on delayed or frozen building project amplify the uncertainty for EU nationals.

It’s been a challenging decade in the construction industry but despite the peaks and troughs, it has proven a force to be reckoned with when it comes to resilience. Whilst some projects have been postponed, you only have to look at house-building sector to see that the demand for construction projects, and relevant skills, remains high.

Owen Goodhead, Managing Director of Randstad Construction Property & Engineering

building a retention strategy.

Whilst some decisions and actions are beyond the construction industry’s control, there’s are still steps the sector and employers can do to help retain talent.

learn more

notes for editors:

10,556 survey responses

1671 - EU nationals working in the UK

8389 - UK citizens working in the UK

496 - Nationals outside the EU working in the UK.