Locals to lose out as migrants win 2012 Olympic skills race

Skills shortages in London’s East End could force local employers to turn to migrant workers to benefit from the opportunities created by the 2012 Olympics, business leaders have warned.

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said a “skills legacy” could be difficult to achieve unless more is done to equip employers and residents with the right skills to win Olympic contracts.

A report from the LCCI warns that increasing numbers of migrant workers from Eastern Europe may have to be imported to cope with major skills shortages in the key five sectors – construction, transport, security, tourism and IT.

“There is particular concern that many Olympic contractors, especially those engaged in construction, will opt to import skilled labour, most probably from Eastern Europe, to work on building the infrastructure rather than investing in providing skills training for local recruits,” it said.

The shortages are especially rife in the five Olympics boroughs – Newham, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Greenwich and Hackney, the LCCI said.

Most London employers expect to benefit financially from the 2012 games, according to the LCCI, but cannot do so without strong leadership and a clear focus.

The government has appointed a new skills champion to address the issues raised in the report and to work with employers in preparation for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in the capital.

Sandra Scott, who has been recruited as the Olympics skills co-ordinator for the Sector Skills Development Agency, will meet businesses and central government agencies over the next few months to discuss the skills requirements for the Games.

“The actual staging of the Games will rely on skilled workers in a broad range of sectors, such as transport, audio-visual industries and, of course, sport,” she said. “The Games are a great opportunity to demonstrate how the UK’s skills can come together and contribute to delivering a world-class event.”

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