Posted on 29/03/2017 by Lee Hiskett
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors announced that Brexit could lose us 175,000 workers from the construction industry alone. Others state the construction industry could grind to a halt. But will it? Really, will it? The simple answer is no. If we did actually lose 175,000 workers from the construction industry this represents just 8% of the workforce, 8% people! How many companies would cease operations if 8 people in a 100 called in sick? About non by my reckoning. Yes it may slow down, yes it may cost a bit more, 8% of 37.5 hrs a week is 3hrs which could be bolstered as overtime. See what I did there? Resolved Brexit by using my own 'could' statements.
If we really want to avoid the calamatous runaway train (percieved by some) that is Brexit we all need to stop bleating about it and get on with it. Whatever happened to British pride and determination?
YouGov reported that more than half of buyers of new homes have experienced major problems with their properties with a poll showing:
41% of homeowners disagreed with the statement “I would prefer to live in a new home rather than an older one”
45% disagreed with the statement “New homes are built to a higher standard than older homes”
Weak mortar, faulty drainage, unfinished fittings … for many buyers of newly built properties in Britain, their dream home quickly turns into a nightmare. Bovis Homes, one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, recently had to set aside £7m to repair poorly built new homes sold to customers, and its interim boss publicly apologised to customers.
Not all migrant workers are suitably qualified and as there is not a legal requirement in the UK, unlike Germany for example, for formal qualifications in construction to be obtained before becoming a builder, an argument could be made that less unskilled builders will result in higher quality for the end buyer. With over half of new builds having issues this can only be seen as a step in the right direction.
Experts say the rush to build homes amid Britain’s chronic housing shortage, and the dominance of a few big building firms that use a multitude of subcontractors, are also to blame for poor building standards. More accountability needs to be placed on these big firms so they cannot just cut and run leaving uninhabitable homes in their wake just so they can satisfy their shareholders.
Skills shortage panic for the UK?
It takes less than two years to train as a plasterer, bricklayer or other tradesperson in the UK and obtain NVQ qualifications, the industry standard in England and Wales. The average construction apprenticeship lasts 20 months. However, from September UK universities and colleges will offer degree level apprentiships in construction lasting three to four years. So this 175,000 panic figure everyone is toting around may in reality be much less than that. It's not as big a headline grabber though if people were taking to the streets saying "oh my god, we will be short 37 plasterers when Brexit comes, what are we going to do?"
Sadly UK builders are under no legal obligation to obtain a licence to practise. They can voluntarily sign up to a body such as the NHBC or the Federation of Master Builders, but there is no single licensing body. This needs to be addresses if we are to have a reliable baseline of quality for all construction.
Adequate supply of homes for UK residents only (not for foreign investors)
In 2015, England’s local authorities built fewer than 3,000 new homes, just a tiny fraction of the estimated 250,000 new homes needed every year to meet demand. But Sheffield council has begun building again in volume, in what some see as a model for tackling the housing crisis.
The Sheffield Housing Company is partnering with contractors to build low cost affordable homes for first time buyers with affordable rent schemes and shared ownership options.
237 of the planned 325 have already been built, of which 88 have been earmakred for afforable rent schemes or shared owneship. Given the massive shortfall in the construction targets of the UK Govt, many local authorities are looking at Sheffields success in managing to do what the private sector, on its own, failed to do: build low-cost housing in areas that until now have been regarded as derelict or run-down.
There is still a lot we can do to avoid any major issues on Brexit but it's far from being as bleak as the scaremongers would have you believe.
The plan is in place to backfill through training the upcoming skill shortage which is great but we really need more regulation to stop sub par construction to making its way into the market.