The UK construction industry has long been trapped between a rock and a hard place, under stringent targets to build more homes to supply the growing demand from the UK population but with extreme skills shortages preventing the achievement of these challenging government goals.
Whilst modular buildings and other modern methods of construction can reduce timelines without impacting quality, these measures alone do not go far enough towards addressing the issue, so the news that a further five construction-related roles have been added to the Shortage Occupation List should be good news for those in the housebuilding industry.
We ask the question, however, do you think these regulations go far enough?
What we know
The Shortage Occupation List details roles across a wide range of industry sectors in which the UK Government deem resident skills to be severely lacking. This is often due to significant vacancies reported across those roles or industry sectors, and the proposal for addressing the shortage is to allow companies to hire foreign workers on more favourable eligibility criteria than would otherwise be possible.
Non-UK residents wishing to work in our country must apply for a Skilled Worker visa and attain a minimum of 70 points, based upon their ability to communicate effectively in the English language and to demonstrate other necessary skills that are required for the role that they are seeking. They must also confirm that their salary expectations are within expected bounds for the type of role for which they wish to apply.
Workers wishing to apply for a role on the Shortage Occupation List can trade up to 20 points against a salary that is up to 20% below the minimum salary threshold for that particular role, trade or industry sector, thereby opening up the field of potential applicants for any particular position.
The five additional construction roles to be added to the Shortage Occupation List ahead of the summer recess have been selected in recognition of the volatility of the construction industry's labour market. This is the result of a combination of factors, which include insufficient numbers of new entrants and a significant proportion of the existing skilled workforce approaching retirement age.
The construction related roles that will be added are roofers, roof tilers and slaters; carpenters and joiners; plasters and dryliners; bricklayers and masons; and construction and building trades that are not otherwise classified. The final category relates to workers who can undertake a variety of roles that are required in the construction and repair of buildings.
How to apply
For housebuilders who are struggling to recruit the personnel that they need to fulfil their order books or to bid for new contracts, this is likely to be good news.
Companies wishing to hire foreign workers will need to apply to the Home Office for a sponsorship licence  which will remain valid for a 4 year period once approved and subject to ongoing compliance with the requirements of the scheme. The licence will cost up to £1,476 based on the size, annual turnover and asset value of the applying organisation, however, this fee is offset by the potential for recruiting skilled staff on a reduced salary.
In order to be approved for a UK visa sponsorship licence, you will need to demonstrate that the organisation and role are genuine, that the worker(s) that you intend to recruit will meet the necessary standards and that your HR systems will be capable of complying with the sponsorship scheme's regulations.
What roles are not included
The roles that are to be added to the Shortage Occupation List do not include scaffolders, mobile machine drivers or road construction operatives, all of which are essential for housebuilding on a large scale.
It is possible, therefore, that even by boosting the number of skilled construction personnel employed by any given organisation, it will still remain challenging to progress current or planned work due to a shortage of personnel to be employed in the initial groundbreaking stages of the construction process.
The Shortage Occupation List offers those in the construction industry the option to bring in foreign workers to perform specific duties. Even if your requirements are outside of these roles, or you require white collar construction personnel to plan, manage or oversee your portfolio of work, Build Space can still help. We can supply specialist talent to plug the gap in your workforce on a contract or permanent basis, even supporting your business in applying for sponsorship visas. Please contact us today to find out how we can help your business to deliver.