BCU Research Extrapolates Construction Industry's Post-Brexit Anxiety

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International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation publish "Brexit: measuring the impact upon skilled labour in the UK construction industry", a Dissertation from BCU final year Honours Project

Eight out of ten construction workers who expressed a preference think that Brexit will damage the UK’s industry. The knock-on effect is that a similar amount also foresee Brexit stalling delivery of high-profile government infrastructure projects.

A new study by researchers at Birmingham City University examined the views of people working in the construction sector. The aim was to understand how they believe Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union will impact jobs, projects and industry.

The results are somewhat disparate to the populace's majority vote in favour of leaving the EU:

  • 88% of workers believed the UK relied upon EU skilled labour;
  • 82% thought exiting the EU would lead to the collapse of many government infrastructure projects;
  • 86% of workers expected to see a rise in demand for skilled workers following Brexit;
  • 92% thought freedom of movement was beneficial to the UK’s construction industry;
  • 90% thought that other EU countries would be more attractive for migrant workers following Brexit;
  • 88% felt a labour shortage would affect the UK’s construction industry.

More than 50 businesses gave feedback for the research project, with one respondent saying:

“I believe that [Brexit] will lead to an intensification of the current skills crisis and could well lead to increases in labour and project costs.”

Another added:

“I definitely agree that Brexit will impact upon skilled labour coming to this country to work.”

The Brexit Impact Study: an Overview

The study was led by Marwan Mohamed, a recent Built Environment graduate from Birmingham City University, alongside Erika Pärn, Lecturer in Architectural Technology at Birmingham City University.

The paper outlines research from part of a final year Honours Research Project (Dissertation), its intention to find solutions to burning issues that both Birmingham and national construction companies face:

  1. potential reduction in skilled labour moving to the UK following Brexit;
  2. the limited numbers of young people entering the construction industry.

Subsequent recommendations include:

  • retaining free movement by remaining in the European Economic Area
  • retaining current workers through increasing wages, providing guaranteed overtime and reducing physical exertion by expanding the use of technology
  • creating more apprenticeship opportunities
  • improving the image of a career in construction to appeal more to young people.

Head researchers’ comment and publication

International Journal of Building Pathology and Adaptation has published the research in its current issue. You can view the abstract and download (for a fee) the paper here: Brexit: measuring the impact upon skilled labour in the UK construction industry.

Marwan Mohamed said of the findings:

“This research deals with a topical, historic and unprecedented matter that is currently shrouding the UK construction sector.

“It concludes that the UK construction sector relies upon EU skilled labour, that there is widespread industry opposition to Brexit, and that many within the sector believe Brexit will reduce the supply of skilled labour from the EU rather than increase or enhance it.

“The paper provides pragmatic recommendations to policy makers and higher education institutes to prevent the risk of Brexit further exacerbating skilled labour shortages within the industry”

Erika Pärn, Lecturer in Architectural Technology, said:

“The publication of this work has not only grabbed the attention and interest of academic audience but also seeks to engage the industry awareness and generate debate on this pressing matter affecting a plethora of the built environment professionals.

“Marwan Mohamed, a recent graduate from Birmingham City University has captured in his work the important factors affecting skilled labour during a historic and unprecedented moment in the UK construction industry.

“This work provides pragmatic recommendations to policy makers and Higher Education Institutions to prevent the risk of Brexit further exacerbating skilled labour shortages within the industry.

“Moreover, Marwan has achieved exceptional success by publishing into an established international scientific peer review journal, having recently graduated from his undergraduate studies.

“This is noteworthy success for the School of the Built Environment and for our growing number of outstanding alumni.”

Construction and Built Environment courses will be showcased during Birmingham City University’s Open Day on Saturday 14 October.

Dr David J. Edwards, Professor of Plant and Machinery Management at Birmingham City University, supervised the project.

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