Masons from abroad essential to ease 'perfect storm' of skills shortages

Visas and immigration

Masons join occupations with skills shortages that can obtain visas to recruit from abroad.

Five more construction sectors, including Bricklayers & Masons, were among those added earlier this year to the lower paid trades that can now be recruited from overseas to overcome skills shortages.

It is a move that has been welcomed by Adrian Attwood, Executive Director at conservation construction contractor DBR Ltd.

He says: “We are currently in a perfect storm of resource shortages due to Brexit, the skills gaps and post-COVID work / life balance attitudes.

"It’s seriously hampering the growth of companies and their ability to absorb volume and, at the same time, be able provide a high quality, agile service / product.

"The labour market is also overheating, with wage demands outstripping market ability to absorb increased costs, further depressing market confidence. So, relaxing of visa rules can only be good news for the construction industry and the UK economy as a whole.”

The extension of the categories for which visas will be allowed under the UK’s post-Brexit points system were announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the Budget on 15 March. More construction categories are still under review and are expected to be added soon.

Various trade and professional bodies had lobbied for more construction trades to be included on the UK’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL) that makes it possible to obtain visas for people in those categories.

Among those lobbying was the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), of which Stone Federation is a member. In February this year it submitted stakeholder evidence to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) about skills shortages that it felt should be considered for inclusion on the SOL.

Bricklayers & Masons are lumped together as one category, with masons identified by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) as one of the trades finding it hardest to recruit skilled workers.

Roofers, Roof Tilers & Slaters have also been added to the SOL, along with Carpenters & Joiners, Plasterers and a catch all wider category of specialists that goes under the name of Construction & Building Trades NEC (NEC stands for ‘not elsewhere classified’).

Stone Federation says it is continuing to speak with representatives from the various masonry training colleges, CITB and other stakeholders to help bridge the skills gap in the industry in the UK.

Tim Balcon, CITB Chief Executive, says: “The inclusion of in-demand construction occupations on the Shortage Occupation List is an important step in bridging the current skills gap identified in CITB's recent Construction Skills Network report, as construction rebounds from the pandemic.

“We will continue to work in partnership with government and the construction industry to grow the skills of the domestic construction workforce and create a dynamic migration system to ensure industry is able to deliver its pipeline of work.

“We also look forward to working with government on 'returnership', following the Chancellor's announcement on Wednesday.”

'Returnerships' are intended to encourage retired people, especially those who have taken early retirement, back into work.