London Olympics skills threat could see migrant worker ban lifted

David Metcalf, the government’s adviser on migration policy, has suggested that a ban on non-EU unskilled workers may be lifted if preparations for the 2012 Olympics fall behind schedule.

Metcalf, head of the new Migration Advisory Council (MAC), told a Lords economic committee that UK firms might not be able to train enough local workers in time for 2012, leading to labour shortages, and therefore a rethink of the current ban on non-EU unskilled workers was needed.

Metcalf had earlier said that foreign workers would also be needed to meet government’s ambitious target of three million new homes by 2020.

The MAC is compiling a list of official shortage occupations, which UK firms will be able to advertise outside the EU, as part of the government’s new points-based migration system.

Metcalf said: “The worry I think one has about this is the inevitable tension between the short run and the long run.

“If you talk about the Olympics having to be on-stream by 2012 and therefore the facilities having to be built by 2011, a modern apprenticeship is three years.”

“It isn’t automatic you are going to get the skilled labour coming on stream in time to build the facilities,” he said.

He added that from a personal viewpoint, UK firms should be made to invest in training as a condition of gaining contracts, according to a report by the BBC.

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