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Carillion recruited in Greece and Portugal to plug AWPR skills gap

Carillion was recruiting workers from Portugal and Greece to plug skills gaps on the troubled Aberdeen bypass project before the company went into liquidation in January.

CN has been told that the contractor carried out recruitment drives in both countries to bring more engineers and project managers onto the £745m Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route.

Carillion was working on the much-delayed scheme alongside Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try before it collapsed earlier this year.

A source close to the project told Construction News that a number of workers were being brought onto the scheme from overseas.

They said: “There were Portuguese project managers and Greek engineers who were really good.

“There were lots of people being flown in from all over the place.”

Other firms working in the construction sector have reported an increase in the number of staff being recruited from countries in southern Europe in recent years.

In a submission to the Home Office’s Migrant Advisory Committee, engineer Aecom said it had seen a noticeable increase in staff arriving from Spain and Greece.

The company said the rise in staff from these countries had coincided with the economic downturn in the region and a fall in employment opportunities.

Analysis: Brexit and skills

How fresh data and political investigations are shedding more and more light on the impact Brexit is having and will have on workforces.

Several contractors and consultants have separately raised fears over their access to labour following Brexit. 

Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds told CN that its pool of EU workers, which make up 40 per cent of its onsite workforce, had remained stable since the referendum, but said beyond the Brexit transition phase there was “considerable uncertainty”.

Morrisroe’s head of people Davina Debidin said that the company, which works mainly in London, feared that the industry might become less attractive for EU nationals due to the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

The concerns come as the UK approaches the second anniversary of the vote to leave the EU.

A report by the Institution of Civil Engineers launched ahead of Brexit called on the government to guarantee freedom of movement for construction workers to ensure “Britain kept building”.

The report said it was “vital” EU migrants working directly in built environment had certainty about their right to work in the UK to ensure skills were not lost.

Latest figures from the ONS have found that 8 per cent of the construction industry’s total workforce are EU workers, while 27 per cent of construction jobs in London are filled by EU migrants.

The report said: “ICE believes that government and industry should work together to map the skills required to deliver the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline and reflect this in any post-Brexit immigration system.”

It added that any free movement agreements with the continent should be reciprocal, enabling UK graduates and learners to access courses, work and share best practice and skills across the EU.

The report also called on the government to set up a UK investment bank to provide financing for infrastructure projects.

The ICE said a UK-specific investment bank would be crucial to provide funding for crucial infrastructure schemes, if the UK was to lose access to the European Investment Bank.

The EIB has been an major source of funding to infrastructure schemes in the past decade, including contributions to Crossrail and the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

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