I have concerns about the impact which the new points-based immigration system will have on our industry.
Migrant labour has played a huge part in building the UK’s infrastructure. The industry has benefited enormously from the expertise of a very diverse workforce bringing skills and innovations from around the world. At VGC we are very grateful for the contributions made by all of the people taking part in our projects, from the Olympics to Crossrail, Yorkshire Water, the M6, A14 and now HS2.
At VGC we have always put substantial investment into our training pipeline, so we feel we are well positioned; however this is a huge industry, which needs to be agile to need changing needs of major projects. There is a risk to industry as a whole that the new points-based immigration system won’t give that flexibility.
We need to be very clear: migrant labour is not synonymous with cheap, unskilled labour.
It is sadly easy to underestimate the value and range of skills required in construction trades: just because they aren’t degree level, does not mean they are simple or easy to acquire. Construction workers are highly able, skilled and qualified. In addition, any construction site has its risks. Railways, motorways, airports and nuclear plants are work environments that need a high level of safety expertise and experience.
We are pleased to have a defined career path and training programme, the VGC Academy. However, new apprentices (and those doing the new T-level courses) joining the industry must be balanced by the expertise of long-term experienced workers on site.
VGC is confident our historical investment in our people will support our projects. However, we all know there is an industry skills shortage. It would be a tremendous shame if the UK’s transport infrastructure plans could not be realised for a lack of appreciation for the industry’s specialist skills sets.