Linking up housing and skills policy ‘the right approach’ says FMB

According to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the Labour Party’s proposal to link up housing and skills policy would be the right approach for a post-Brexit UK.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said in response to Labour releasing their manifesto for the upcoming General Election: “Labour’s pledge to integrate housing and skills policy is the right approach to tackling two of the key challenges we face in the building industry. We are building too few homes in every part of the UK and this problem is exacerbated by the construction skills shortage. Jeremy Corbyn has said that freedom of movement would end under a Labour Government and it is therefore right that the Party has a clear plan to build the homes we need and train the people we need to build them.”

Berry continued: “It is a strength of the Labour manifesto that it has such a clear focus on apprenticeships and high quality training. The commitment to doubling the number of NVQ Level 3 apprenticeships by 2020 will be well-received by small construction firms. The sense of a decline in the standard of construction apprenticeships has reduced the attractiveness of taking on apprentices for many SMEs. SME construction firms still carry out two thirds of all apprenticeship training and nearly three quarters of construction SME bosses say they would be more likely to take on an apprentice if the standards to which apprentices are trained improved. A higher level skills base is key to increasing the UK’s productivity which trails behind other leading economies.”

Berry concluded: “While Labour’s ambitious targets on house building, to be delivered partly through its National Transformation Fund, are welcome, there is little to address the fundamental issue of industry capacity. Whichever party is in government after the General Election, a council house building programme would be a catalyst for boosting the capacity of the SME house building sector. This would follow the recommendations of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee last year, which identified the sector’s vulnerability to the economic cycle as being a constant danger to the overall capacity of the house building industry. Ensuring that public sector house building contracts are opened up to SMEs is one key way the Government can buck the usual boom and bust economic cycle and maintain house building capacity.”