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Integration of migrant workers tops the agenda

Industry leaders' summit to discuss ways of bringing workers from newly expanded EU up to scratch

INDUSTRY leaders will be discussing ways to improve the integration of migrant workers on site next week.

Groups including CITB-ConstructionSkills, the Construction Confederation and the Major Contractors Group will gather with Home Office officials at the Institute of Directors in London to draw up plans to bring construction workers from overseas into the industry.

The meeting comes a year after the expansion of the European Union, which saw labour markets open up to workers from 10 mainly Eastern European countries.

It will focus on a draft five-point integration plan agreed before Christmas to bring overseas workers up to speed on the differences between the UK construction industry and other European sectors.

Under the plan, migrants will be tested in English and given a two-week induction - potentially through an approved firm.This is intended to lead to a health and safety test and CSCS skills card.

Mike Dwyer, CITB-ConstructionSkill's head of business development, said: 'Since the accession countries came in, language has been the main priority and we should have our health and safety test handbook out in eight languages by the beginning of August.'

CITB-ConstructionSkills has the task of matching all European qualifications with domestic NVQs, which is likely to take a further 18 months.

Mr Dwyer said: 'Take brickwork - over here we're into fine finished brickwork, but in Eastern Europe it's a bit more rough and ready, so that is where we'd need to train them.

'But ideally we're looking for workers over here who have already got the skills in, rather than taking on people who need three or four years of training.'

Although the Home Office has published guidance for employers on taking on migrant workers, one industry source questioned whether the CITB-ConstructionSkills' five-point plan was practical.

Mr Dwyer said: 'The trouble is that it is just good ideas at the moment - it's not being developed and there will be questions over where the money will actually come from to do this.'

Five-point plan

Screening on English language: Streaming into three levels

Overview of UK construction and employment practice: Covering the structure of the industry, workers' rights and unions

Technical skills briefing: Skills audit and training to fill gaps, briefings on materials, health and hygiene standards

Health & safety test: Appropriate CITB-ConstructionSkills test for relevant trade

Skills test: Leading to a N/SVQ and CSCS or affiliated card