ECA responds points-based immigration system

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Opinion

Andrew Eldred, director of employment and skills at ECA, responds to the Home Office's plans for a new points-based immigration system.

Yesterday’s announcement by the Government that they intend to reshape the immigration system presents an opportunity as well as a challenge for the UK construction sector. For too long, the sector has relied on low-skilled overseas labour as a sticking plaster, masking its neglect of training and investment.

Each year, thousands of young people and career-changers languish on full-time college construction courses because they can’t find an apprenticeship, and struggle to win steady employment afterwards. Many eventually give up. Claims by some industry leaders that a potential workforce can’t be sourced locally just won’t wash.

This long-standing paradox of industry skills shortages and a large army of neglected recruits won’t be fixed by the new immigration rules on their own. The broader construction business environment remains extremely hostile to long-term investment in people and skills.

Arguments that the sector needs more time to adjust to the new immigration regime would likely carry more weight if it was doing more on its own, and in partnership with the Government, to ameliorate this adverse commercial environment.

Fair payment, a coherent vocational education system, adequate non-levy apprenticeship funding, meaningful supply chain skills requirements, and an end to false self-employment all have a role to play in shifting construction firms towards a more sustainable business model.

For our part, ECA will continue to champion genuine transformative change in the UK construction sector, with the objective of improving prospects for electrotechnical businesses, their employees and customers. For people with the right skills, no matter where they come from, career prospects in the electrotechnical industry should be brighter than ever.