European migrants are likely to fill thousands of jobs that would be created under Labour’s proposed house-building boom if action is not taken to train up young Britons, the shadow housing minister will warn.
The opposition has drawn up plans to increase the number of new homes to at least 200,000 a year by 2020, which will create up to 230,000 jobs as well as new apprenticeships.
But Emma Reynolds will say that research shows the UK faces a looming skills shortage and many of the vacancies are set to be filled by workers from other European countries.
She will call for the building industry to tackle the skills gap so young people can benefit from the new jobs that will be created.
In a speech to the Home Builders Federation conference in London, she is expected to say: “A recent cross-party parliamentary report highlighted that there is an expectation that some vacancies could be filled by migrants from other European countries, as they have in the past, to fill skills shortages. We shouldn’t have to rely on that.
“With over 900,000 of our young people unemployed, we need to do better.
“I believe that an active partnership between the industry and a future Labour government can work to turn an emerging issue on skills into a huge opportunity.”
Construction apprenticeship starts are down by 3.3 per cent – 14,070 to 13,610 – since 2009/10 and completions have fallen by 68 per cent from 11,790 to 3,760, according to House of Commons research.
Ms Reynolds will add: “We will offer house building and construction employers a something-for-something deal.
“We will give employers greater control of money for training and powers to set training standards that genuinely meet your interests and those of young people, but in return we ask that you work to increase the number of high-quality apprenticeships in the industry and through your supply chains.
“We are also determined to protect the apprenticeship ‘brand’ from being devalued by low-quality courses.
“We want to work with you towards a system in which all the house building and construction apprenticeships are level three qualifications and last a minimum of two years.”
Ms Reynolds will also call on the industry to look to armed forces veterans to meet current skills shortages.
“As well as boosting the apprenticeship opportunities for young people, there is also an urgent need here and now,” she will say.
“That’s why we also need to recruit those with experience or knowledge from other industries – one such source of talent is the armed forces.
“Many of our ex-armed forces have the right skills such as leadership, team-work and logistics, as well as many who are trained in the trades, to make a big contribution to the industry.”
Work must be done to boost the number of women and ethnic minority groups in the industry, she will say, with Labour research finding only 15 women were among the 86 board members of the top nine house builders.
“There is a clear lack of diversity. But the problem is not just on building sites – it is also in the boardroom.
“If the industry is serious about bringing new talent into the industry, it must widen the talent pool and overhaul its image.
“It is essential that as part of any skills strategy, the need to boost diversity amongst women and ethnic minority groups is taken seriously.”