Employers fear immigration rules ‘will cause worker shortages’

Employers are fearful that the government’s new skills-based immigration system will cause worker shortages, research by the Construction Industry Training Board has revealed.

The Migration and Construction report published by CITB is designed to provide fresh evidence to inform decision-making by the government in the run-up to Brexit.

CITB has made recommendations to government based on data from 400 interviews with employers, 50 recruitment agencies and 251 with non-UK born workers.

The training organisation warned that the new visa system would prove problematic in the recruitment of low-skilled workers and the high-skilled proposals did not adequately cover the sector’s requirements.

CITB claimed its research showed visas are not understood or deemed suitable by UK construction employers.

This, CITB said, was demonstrated by the fact that in the last two years, just 3 per cent of employers it spoke to had supported a non-EU visa application.

According to the report, businesses were also critical of the new low-skilled workers visa, which would limit migrants to only working for one year at a time, followed by a cooling-off period of the same length.

More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of employers that responded did not consider the low-skilled visa suitable for their business.

The proposals would “make it harder to recruit staff, lead to skills shortages, lead to difficulty retaining staff, and increase administration and red tape”, the report claimed.

One survey respondent was quoted by CITB saying that the new rules deterred them from training up workers who could only be in the country for 12 months.

“I would not be interested in employing anyone for one year because of the amount of time and effort you put in training somebody up. [When] they reach the standard you want, the year’s nearly up and they’re going to leave,” the respondent said.

CITB’s research found the new high-skilled visa, which has a minimum salary threshold of £30,000 or more, was more suitable for those working in the professional services areas of the industry rather than onsite construction roles.

More than half (55 per cent) of the professional services employers questioned said most of their employees earned over £30,000 a year compared to 40 per cent among construction employers.

Over half (58 per cent) of the recruitment agencies surveyed by CITB said the new system would result in a decrease in the number of low-skilled workers, 40 per cent foresaw a decrease in skilled migrant labour.

The majority (68 per cent) of non-UK born workers told CITB they were keen to ‘train to remain’ by completing qualifications which would allow them to apply for high skilled worker visas.

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