Dear Prime Minister,
Immigration & Skilled Workers
Following The Home Secretary’s appearance on the BBC today, I write to you as the Chief Executive of The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation – an organisation responsible for education, standards, support and compliance in our sector.
My open letter is prompted by concerns over The Governments plans on immigration and in particular points-based system that will affect skilled labour.
Whilst we fully understand and appreciate the need to manage immigration to protect the best interests of our country, we must be incredibly mindful that the introduction of measures to limit foreign labour, as reported today, have the potential of adding enormous pressure to the home improvement and construction industry – an industry already in crisis with a severe skills gap.
The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model, commonly known as the Farmer Review or by its subtitle Modernise or Die, was a 2016 report commissioned by the British Government. Written by industry veteran Mark Farmer, it identified key failings in the British construction industry.
Farmer stated that research and development was almost non-existent, productivity was low and cost inflation high. He also noted a lack of skilled workers required to deliver the government’s infrastructure and housebuilding targets.
Farmer made ten key recommendations for the industry to follow which included reform of the Construction Industry Training Board, greater use of off-site construction techniques, greater promotion of the industry to school children, reform of tax and planning processes.
Of course, with our departure from the European Union, the UK labour market now faces additional challenges. Challenges that didn’t exist at the time of the Farmer Review, which present additional unmapped complexities that I believe will almost certainly be catastrophic for the construction and home improvement industry if not handled carefully within proposed immigration policy.
Whilst some progress has been made following the recommendations of the review, the simple fact remains that there is not enough skilled labour to deliver against the demand of both construction targets and indeed consumer need.
The vast majority of our SME members, hard-working and highly skilled home improvement specialists, may not meet the formal qualification requirement for a number of reasons, let alone the unskilled labour that support their respective businesses.
My recommendation is that the Government work with trade associations closely on this subject, as I believe we hold the key to both the support of the understanding of grassroot issues, in addition to the potential of playing a role in supporting the validation of those who have the skills, but perhaps not the qualifications to work within our great country.
We have once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure immigration policy is launched from a solid, informed platform, and I believe that we (trade associations) can play an integral role in supporting the government to achieve a balanced policy that accepts that hard working people from across the globe do not necessarily arrive with paper qualification, but perhaps do possess the skills to support The Governments targets on construction and consumers expectations on home improvement.
I look forward to supporting your Government achieve this balance.
Chief Executive Officer