The findings were outlined in a new report on the evolution of 'infratech' by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. Infratech concerns the increasing convergence of digital technologies with physical infrastructure.
According to the report, 94% of 120 senior executives from infrastructure developers around the world said they either agreed entirely or somewhat agreed that heightened restrictions on the free movement of people represents a "serious threat" to their company's ability to hire employees with the skills they need. A further 89% of 120 senior executives from the technology and communications sector said they also shared those concerns.
"Even before Brexit, the infrastructure sector was grappling with a chronic future skills issue," said employment law expert Ed Goodwyn of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. "A report by Arcadis in March found that the sector has been facing a significant challenge as the number of workers joining the sector is not keeping up with demand."
"The sector, along with other parts of the UK business community, has been calling on the government to quickly secure the future of those EU workers in the UK, failing which the country may simply not have enough skilled workers to complete the projects in the pipeline," said Goodwyn.
"Looking to the future in the light of the increase in automation and off-site construction, it will be interesting to see if the infrastructure sector will start to adopt working practices that have been embedded in the manufacturing sector for years," he said.
The new report found that recruiting people based in their country with the skills required for infratech projects has already proved problematic for 41% of infrastructure developers and 28% of technology and communication providers.
A lack of skills in data science, security and engineering was cited by the executives as in most short supply in their country, while the challenge of filling jobs in commercial and procurement roles, and in construction, was also highlighted.
The survey, however, looked at the potential of automation. It found that most executives in the infrastructure and technology market believe increasing automation will reduce the overall level of recruitment in their sectors.
More than four in five of the respondents from infrastructure developers (81%) said they think, at least to some extent, that automation is opening up a skills gap in their sector because it is changing the skills needed by workers. That view was shared by 67% of respondents in the technology sector.
This is part of a series exploring the opportunities and challenges of infratech, the integration of technology into infrastructure. You can read more in our special report or request an exclusive Pinsent Masons research report.