Olympic ambitions at risk if construction opportunties closed to migrants

Excluding certain construction jobs from the migrant worker shortage list of occupations could be ‘dangerous’ for the long-term prospects of the industry, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has warned.

Last week, the Migration Advisory Committee recommended that construction managers and quantity surveyor positions be removed from the list of shortage occupations as skilled people for those jobs were no longer in short supply in the UK. The proposals come ahead of the Migration Advisory Committee publishing a full review of the occupations list for migrant workers at the end of March.

While the move should protect skilled British workers struggling to find jobs, RICS warned that it could lead to a skills shortage when the economy recovers and demand for work on Olympic projects increases.

Damian Cleghorn, senior policy adviser at RICS, told Personnel Today: “In the long term, there is a danger of people leaving the construction profession and retraining, because they think there are no jobs in the sector, and not coming back to it.” He added that the move “could cause a problem” for completing the London 2012 Olympics on time, if migrant workers with the right skills had previously been deterred from working in the UK.

However, figures published by the Migration Advisory Committee last week revealed the extent to which the downturn is affecting the construction industry – the number of construction manager vacancies decreased by 80% in the year to January 2009, while the number of construction managers signing on for unemployment benefits has risen dramatically to 4,795.

Cleghorn conceded it was right that British workers got first access to what little construction jobs were available, as long as the Migration Advisory Committee regularly reviewed the list to prevent problems when the economy recovered.

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