Graduate Visa Scheme Could Provide Solutions to UK Construction Skills Shortage

Posted by Stuart Hackett Senior Recruitment Consultant on Thursday, November 18, 2021

I'm often asked for advice by international candidates who are struggling to secure positions in the UK construction industry, due to the reluctance of some employers to sponsor employment visas.

As a specialist recruiter for construction industry quantum and delay, claims and disputes roles, I also experience reluctance from these employer clients to sponsor visas for international candidates. Whilst the reasons are often understandable (i.e., time, expense, and red tape), I think some real international talent is being overlooked in a construction market experiencing a prolonged skills shortage.

Post-Study Work Visa (PSW Visa)

One route that international candidates wanting to explore working in the UK may want to explore is the new Post-study work visa (PSW) or Graduate Visa as it may be referred to. This scheme was officially launched in July 2021 and I am already seeing candidates securing work with construction industry contractors and consultancies via this route.

The PSW visa allows non-British nationals to work in the UK for up to 2 years upon completion of a UK bachelor’s degree or Masters degree, and 3 years upon completion of a UK PhD or doctorate.

Details of Scheme

The government website sets out the following parameters for eligibility:

  • You’re in the UK
  • Your current visa is a Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa
  • You studied a UK bachelor’s degree, postgraduate degree or other eligible course for a minimum period of time with your Student visa or Tier 4 (General) student visa
  • Your education provider (such as your university or college) has told you you’ve successfully completed your course

Details of how to apply can be found on the government website, however a decision is expected to take up to 8 weeks.

There is also a cost for applying and securing the PSW visa, which will include:

  • Approximately £700 for the initial application
  • Approximately £625 per annum healthcare surcharge

When you factor in the cost of studying a degree, Masters or PhD in the UK, as well as the cost for the application, this can certainly not be described as a cheap option to securing work in the UK.

However, for international candidates already studying in the UK or considering studying in the UK, this new scheme may be a viable option to securing work in the UK in the medium to long term.

Will a PSW Visa Guarantee me work in the UK?

Unfortunately, I would have to answer ‘No’ to this question.

Nothing is guaranteed despite your eligibility to work in the UK. However, being eligible for or securing a PSW visa and physically being in the UK will almost certainly multiply your chances of securing work in the UK.

The construction industry in the UK is still experiencing a skills shortage for engineers, quantity surveyors, project managers, construction disputes staff and a host of other technical professional roles as we bounce back from the impacts of the pandemic. Therefore, there should at least be ample opportunities to secure work in the UK construction industry, both now and for years to come.

What are the challenges of securing work in the UK for International Candidates with the right to work in the UK?

One of the issues that I am still seeing include construction companies being unaware of the PSW visa, and therefore overly cautious of hiring candidates under the scheme. This issue often relates to smaller construction companies who do not have HR departments. Often meaning they are not fully up to date with recent changes to employment law.

The good news is, as time passes, I expect that the PSW visa will become more universally recognised amongst construction companies.

Secondly, despite securing a visa to work in the UK, you may also experience a reluctance from some hiring companies to hire candidates with no prior experience working in the UK.

This is still a common objection amongst a reasonable percentage of construction contractors and consultancies in the UK, who seem to place a high emphasis on the need for candidates to have prior experience of working in the UK construction industry when considering them for their vacancies.

We’re also experiencing this when representing candidates with the British National (Overseas) visas for Hong Kong nationals. The good news is that nearly all BNO candidates that become new employees, work out as excellent long term hires.

How International Candidates Can Help the UK Construction Industry

I would just like to add my thoughts to the above, and I strongly feel that international candidates (particularly those with or eligible for visas to work in the UK) can really help the production and growth of the UK construction industry.

I am hearing so many stories from employers who are struggling to secure the right talent for their roles at the moment. I know of numerous vacancies that have remained unfilled for months and the negative impacts this is having on businesses functioning as well as their growth plans.

If you are a hiring manager who is rejecting CVs purely based on not understanding a candidate’s already confirmed visa and right to work in the UK, or because a candidate does not have prior UK project experience, then I would urge you to reconsider why this is the case.

We’re working successfully with a number of international candidates with the right to work in the UK and successfully matching them with construction companies in the UK, where they are thriving in their new roles.

The Maxim Recruitment team are highly experienced recruiters who are vetting international candidates as strictly as we would any British born candidate, and we are able to present you with much of the best international talent available right now.

If you are a hiring manager who thinks that international candidates with the right to work in the UK can help fill your vacancies, then please get in touch with myself or one of my colleagues at Maxim Recruitment to discuss how we can help you.

Stuart Hackett
Senior Recruitment Consultant

Stuart has over 14 years' construction recruitment experience and is based from the Maxim Recruitment UK Head Office in Leicestershire.  His primary focus is on the recruitment of Construction Claims and Dispute professionals in London, across the UK and in selected international locations.