Government plans to ease the industry’s chronic shortfall of workers and skills by loosening the rules on employing foreign workers have had a mixed reception from industry bodies.

The aim to extend the existing Shortage Occupation List (SOL) to include many construction workers was praised by the FMB, which says nearly half of small businesses said they would welcome more access to migrant workers, if supported by training support.

Chief executive Brian Berry said: “The construction sector needs tens of thousands of new entrants every year to meet current demands. The FMB and other industry stakeholders have called on the Migration Advisory Committee to review the Shortage of Occupation List and to include more trades such as bricklayers and carpenters to help boost economic growth.

 “In the recent FMB State of Trade Survey, 48% of small builders reported being in favour of increased immigration provided this was underpinned by better investment in skills training.”

However, Construction Products Association economics director Noble Francis, replying via social media said such a move would be of little help as most of the losses are among self-employed workers and the SOL scheme requires incoming workers to have a sponsoring employer.

Also, he added: “86% of all construction employment is in small & medium-size firms, which often struggle with the cost and bureaucracy of dealing with visa applications) whereas the Shortage Occupation List still requires an employer to pay to sponsor a worker and deal with the admin.”

The Shortage Occupation list allows employers to bring in workers over a pay threshold of £20,480 rather than the skilled worker minimum of £25,600.

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