FIS has raised concerns with officials from The Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that interior systems installers have not been included as an eligible occupation for the skilled worker route in the outline plans for a UK Points Based Immigration System post Brexit.

A new points‐based immigration system which will apply to EU and non‐EU citizens and require those that want to work in the UK to meet a specific set of requirements. In addition to passing the relevant UK criminality checks, the job must have a salary of at least £20,480, and 50 points are ‘earned’ by meeting the following mandatory criteria:

  • The applicant must have an offer of a job from a licensed sponsor
  • The job must be at or above the minimum skill level: RQF3 level or equivalent (A level or equivalent qualification). Workers will not need to hold a formal qualification; it is the skill level of the job they will be doing which is important
  • The applicant must speak English to an acceptable standard.

An additional 20 points can be gained through a combination of a higher salary, a job being on the shortage occupation list, and/or the holding of additional qualifications.

Drylining, for example, is intrinsic to most construction and house building projects and has a significant impact on the time frames for completing work – there are approximately 45,000 CSCS card holding dry liners (this does not include overlapping trades that undertake drylining work, but carry an alternative card).  As at January 2020 FIS members reported 42% of their workforce was made up of immigrant labour.

Although English Training Providers are preparing to deliver training for the latest Apprenticeship Standard, in drylining, the numbers will not provide the level of the existing labour pool for at least two years.  However, this will ensure future, home grown, dryliners are competent.

Despite the number of dry liners now exceeding many of the more traditional trades, it has historically been lost in “Construction Operatives Not Elsewhere Classified (8149)” within the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Sector Occupational Classification (SOC) Codes, as are ceilings and partitions installers and a raft of other specialist trades.  The Codes are used to collect and provide statistical data on occpations.  This latest report on the UK Points Based Immigration System has been based on the Office of National Statistics (ONS) 2010 Sector Occupational Classification (SOC) Codes.  In 2020 these were revised and, due to the close link between Drylining and Plastering, it is now officially listed under 5321 “Plasterers” (which is classified as an Eligible Occupation for the Skilled Worker Route).  The trades are closely aligned, many companies will offer both options for finishing and elements of drylining finishing are currently included within the plastering apprenticeship standard.

Commenting on the report, FIS CEO Iain McIlwee stated; “we recognise that within these plans some positive movement has taken place based on the research we supported on Shortage Occupations published last year and several meetings and round table events that we participated in with various Government Departments.  At this stage I remain convinced that this is an oversight and as plans evolve into policy we can make the necessary adjustments.  We continue to work with BuildUK, The Department of Building Energy and Industrial Strategy, CITB and colleagues at the Home Office and Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to this end – we will also be picking up concerns (as a sector that relies on around 60% of our workforce as Labour Only Subcontractors) that the system does not rely on impractical employment expectations.

One thing we must reinforce is that drylining is a skilled trade intrinsic to modern construction.  FIS exists to help raise standards in the construction sector and continue to dedicate resources through schemes like BuildBack to promote and encourage ‘home grown talent’ and ensure that all working in the UK, whether immigrant of domestic worker are competent to complete their work and that their skills and knowledge of the materials, environment and processes are kept current.  This is ongoing and within this we need to avoid a real cliff face for the sector that will have serious ramifications for the wider construction and housebuilding market.”

You can view the outline plans for a UK Points Based Immigration System.

FIS has prepared an overview paper based on concerns with the proposed UK Points Based Immigration System here.

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