Stuart’s Blog: Skills Shortages – Brexit and the Hollow Bluff

I’m not the first to write about skills shortages in the building industry.

Building and the related trades and professions suffered badly in the credit crunch. As funding for construction dried-up, firms across the spectrum cut recruitment, graduate and apprentice programmes were pulled, training restricted for only the essentials.

Problem is, as the market has improved and building programmes have re-commenced, new recruitment has pulled in skilled staff from abroad. Recruitment programmes, especially for the next generation, have fallen way behind. The industry cannot possibly hit the 250,000 per annum new homes target with our current levels of skilled staff or those coming through the ranks. The construction industry, together with the care industry, hospitality and others, are dependent on overseas staff particularly from our European neighbours.

As our Westminster masters prepare to trigger Article 50 there is a continued refusal of the Government to secure the rights of EU passport holders resident in the UK. Ostensibly so we can “bargain their rights against those of UK Nationals resident in the remaining 27 countries”.

Now, I’m no poker player, but I know you don’t play the cards you play the man (or woman!). Never has there been a more hollow and empty threat that we will seek the return of EU nationals if reciprocal offers to UK nationals are not confirmed. To win on a bluff your opponent has to believe or at least fear you hold an ace card, the whole of Europe knows we don’t, we badly need skilled EU nationals.

So, this is the trade Prime Minister May, secure the rights of EU nationals already resident now. Take the right moral stance and prove the UK intends to be a good neighbour to Europe. Its good for business too.

Any business person will tell you – first mover advantage is invaluable, its certainly worth way more than a hollow threat!

Stuart Parfitt is Managing Director of BLG Development Finance and a keen cricketer

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