The world of work is changing rapidly and rarely to the benefit of employers and recruiters. We see constant headlines about the Great Resignation affecting office workers or the national shortage of logistics staff.

Recruitment challenges are far more widespread than just those limited groups of workers. The construction industry, in particular, is facing a dramatic skills shortage. Combined with rising raw materials prices, the sector is facing some rough times ahead.

The figures offer a stark warning about the size of the problem facing us. 83% of construction firms are struggling with a lack of skilled workers. The average business within the sector is at 78% of optimum staffing levels. This is not a path to success.

This isn’t just a staff shortage. The far more pressing issue is the lack of properly skilled candidates for vacant roles. The sector needs approximately 266,000 more trained workers in the coming years, and this simply isn’t possible overnight.

Apprenticeships represent a significant opportunity to address this skills shortage, but neither firms nor young people seem keen to take these up in the numbers required. 

Large numbers of well-funded, high-quality apprenticeships will probably be key to a long-term solution to the UK’s construction skills shortage, but they’re not going to be enough to save us short-term pain in the next few years.

Keeping the construction industry moving forward is key to the economy and well-being of the country. Without it, house building will fall, and there will be no end in sight for the housing and cost-of-living crises.

Finding a temporary solution to the skills shortage in construction will likely require creative ideas and looking in new directions for the talent we desperately need. Today we’re looking at one possible solution — the graduate visa scheme.

Most construction firms aren’t looking to overseas university graduates for our next cohort of workers, but maybe we should.

How graduate visa schemes could help the construction skills shortage

As anyone working in recruitment is inevitably aware, immigration schemes can be complex and confusing. Today, we’re only looking at one relatively straightforward scheme. This is the High Potential Individual visa, which opened to applicants on May 30th of this year.

The principle behind the scheme is very simple. It’s designed to allow recent graduates from top universities worldwide to come to the UK for work without having a job offer in advance.

This is dramatically different from the vast majority of visas requiring a prospective worker to have a firm offer from a UK employer willing to act as a sponsor. Sponsored visas come with responsibilities and administrative hoops that employers and employees must jump through.

To be eligible for an HPI visa, someone must have graduated from one of a list of the 50 top universities in the world within the last five years.

Eligible candidates can work in the UK on an HPI visa for two years if they hold a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent). If they have acquired a PhD, this is extended to three years.

During this time, they can work freely and change employers without adjusting their visas. They can also bring their family with them to the UK as dependents.

The HPI visa aims to give UK businesses access to high-quality candidates to fill acute skills shortages. It hopes to bring great talent from overseas, especially for several shortage-list occupations, including engineering and construction.

Active job listings are at an all-time high right now, with vacancies in the construction sector taking an average of just under four months to fill. Bringing in talented recent graduates with the skills to fill some of those roles is essential if we are going to avert a crisis in the UK workforce.

But how can we take advantage of this important new scheme? And how can we attract the candidates we so sorely need?

How construction companies can take advantage of graduate visa schemes

Right now, the HPI visa represents a huge opportunity for firms within the construction industry, but we need to know how to take advantage of it.

Our first task is to promote this visa route. This is a new type of visa, and most of the workers we want to employ won’t know it’s an option. Many of our competitors might not know either.

This visa is also aimed at individuals, not companies. We can’t apply on prospective employees’ behalf, so we need to ensure they know about it. We also need to convince them that their skills will be in demand within the UK.

The biggest step we can take is to connect with relevant overseas universities and, most importantly, with their engineering departments and societies. We need to reach out to those students and show them what life and work in the UK could mean to them.

Don’t rely on governments or industry bodies to do this on your behalf. Remember, when these graduates come to the UK, they’ll be able to go to any employer they choose. Making contact and forging relationships now gives you employer brand recognition and starts to build trust.

Recent graduates are an incredible resource, but they can often be unsure of themselves as 

they prepare to enter the world of work. This is especially true of overseas graduates, who may be considering relocating thousands of miles away from friends and family.

Perfect your graduate recruitment strategy to ensure it appeals to your ideal candidates. Show how you will help them continue their professional development and the support systems you already have in place.

Don’t forget the importance of retention. Graduates on an HPI visa won’t be tied to your company. Make sure that you’ve paid as much attention to keeping them as you do to recruitment in the first place.

This might mean ensuring that you have ample opportunities for remote working and including strategies to encourage team-building and inclusion among your remote graduate workers.

Recruitment in the construction industry is far from easy right now, but companies with great recruitment strategies can make the most of some incredible opportunities.

Stay updated on construction recruitment trends with crooton

Make sure you keep up to date with the latest trends and strategies within construction recruitment to help you find (and keep) great talent. You can read the latest on the crooton blog where we cover topics like the challenges facing construction recruiters and our ultimate guide to construction recruitment.

Recruiting graduates from abroad doesn’t have to be tricky. Get in touch with the crooton team today to see how we can help you solve all your construction recruitment challenges for a single fixed rate.