Language skills key to building productivity

Companies in the construction industry are providing basic language lessons
for their non-English speaking workers in a bid to improve on-site safety and
boost productivity.

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) estimates that the industry
needs an extra 83,000 workers annually, and many of these will come to the UK
from abroad, especially since the expansion of the European Union.

A number of firms – including property developer St George and multi-service
construction provider Carillion – have begun piloting this idea in partnership
with colleges local to large projects.

Around 60 people die every year on building sites in the UK. The Royal
Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said a better understanding of the
English language would reduce site deaths and increase productivity.

RICS construction spokesman Launce Morgan said: "Whatever the arguments
about the decline of skills in the UK, the influx of foreign labour is likely
to continue.

"The single most helpful thing to a migrant worker would be to help
them learn the language of the country in which they are living and
working," he said. "It so happens that this is one of the canniest
business moves too. A fluent workforce would be a safer and more productive
one."

The CBI said that using controlled migration to help reduce skill gaps and
stimulate economic growth was common sense, but added that migrant workers
coming to the UK must be ready to learn English.

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