More than half of housebuilders are launching apprenticeship schemes to address the industry’s chronic shortage of skilled workers, a survey from Lloyds Banking Group has found.

As the country embarks on a housebuilding drive, companies have repeatedly warned that “Britain could stop building” if the industry loses access to younger European workers when many older ones are approaching retirement.

More than 100,000 people from other EU countries were employed in Britain’s construction industry in 2014 as part of a workforce of 2.1 million, according to the National Institute of Social and Economic Research. The proportion of EU migrants in construction increased fivefold between 2003 and 2016.

The government has set itself an ambitious target to build 300,000 homes every year in England. Companies say they are already dealing with rising labour costs — in London bricklayers are demanding wages of up to £60,000 — and that they are likely to become higher if supply is further restricted.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said that it would take a number of years to fill the gap with home-grown workers. He called for a transitional period before leaving the EU, as well as “a cultural shift” to encourage vocational training and make the industry more appealing to women and ethnic minorities.

Article originally posted by The Times