UK has shortage in butchers, bricklayers and welders, report warns

A shortage in butchers, bricklayers and welders in the UK has been branded “extraordinary” by a chief government adviser.

Unfilled vacancies are rising and businesses say there are shortages in trying to find appropriately skilled workers for jobs, according to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC).

The findings have led the body, which offers the Government independent, evidence-based advice on migration, to recommend that the roles are added to the UK’s shortage occupation list (SOL) to make it easier for migrants to apply for work visas to fill jobs.

The SOL “assesses which occupations are in shortage, i.e. where employers find it problematic to secure adequate numbers of workers with the required skills to fill their vacancies and where we judge that migration is a sensible response to that shortage”.

A joint of lamb being prepared in a York butcher's (John Giles/PA)
A joint of lamb being prepared in a York butcher’s (John Giles/PA)

“These occupations are then subject to different, more favourable, migration arrangements, enabling employers to access a wider pool of suitable workers, more quickly,” according to the MAC’s report.

When asked by reporters for his thoughts on the findings, committee chairman Professor Brian Bell said: “It does seem extraordinary, I agree.

“I think this is a general point I would make about perhaps how, and this is no reflection on the current Government, this is a reflection of governments of all persuasions for decades now.

“I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of linking where we see shortages with a training and education programme that actually thinks about addressing these shortages.

Apprenticeship scheme
A trainee bricklayer at work (Ian Nicholson/PA)

“As far as we are aware, we are the only advisers to government that actually produce essentially a list of where we think there are shortages in particular occupations.

“Perhaps other parts of government do but I’m not aware of it.

“Of course what we’re doing it for is the immigration system.

“We’re not doing it to advise the Department for Education about what sort of training programmes might be needed in the future.

“And there is a gap there I think that other countries do better at linking this kind of forward looking aspect of where are the shortages, what should we be doing about it.”

Prof Bell also said those industries need to do more to attract resident workers, adding: “If we continue to see occupations saying ‘oh we will just rely on immigration’ then the likelihood is that the community will become progressively less sympathetic to their case.

“There is clear potential for a better future in terms of training programmes to make sure British workers can fill those jobs in the future.”

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