This stream will seek solutions to construction’s skills crisis along with new models to improve culture and leadership in a post-covid environment


Over the summer, the Construction Skills Network said an additional 266,000 workers would be needed to meet the level of anticipated output by 2026.

While a recession is coming, many in the industry are struggling to square this news with the fact that so many vacancies need filling.

Stanhope construction director Tony Wall told Building in the autumn: “There is a lot of work out there, which makes it a very different issue to previous recessions. If all that [work] happens, we will have problems with labour and professional shortages.”

The answer seems obvious: bring in more people, then.

But that, according to a comprehensive survey from WSP, will be harder than ever. The industry ranked only behind mining in being the least attractive among 16 to 23 year olds.

The industry is not immune to this and knows it must work harder and convince more and more outside it that it is a good one to join. The Building the Future Commission will look at fresh thinking and assess new solutions to make this easirer for construction firms.

One of the more telling comments on the topic in recent months was from Wall’s colleague Laura Collins. A project director, she admits she fell into the industry by chance but is working hard to promote it – especially to girls.

workplace culture

After she wrapped up a speech at an online careers event for a troop of 50 girl guides, she said: “The first question I got was: do I get bullied by men?”

The workplace, culture and leadership stream of the commission will cover topics such as diversity and inclusion in the workforce, environmental, social and governance issues, and post covid working patterns and rethinking office space.

Issues that would never have been on firms’ radars even just a few years ago are becoming more commonplace.

Earlier this year, Kier became one of the first employers in England to offer apprenticeship opportunities to prisoners, following a law change.

With the chronic skills shortage in the industry, construction will have to think creatively at how it can attract talent from different groups in society, in addition to its work with schools and colleges, and the commission will harness creative ideas in this area.

Galliford Try has launched its first ever menopause policy in support of providing a more inclusive working environment. It said the policy “recognises the taboo surrounding menopause, which can prevent individuals from accessing the support they need and encourages open conversation through education for all”.

It is obvious that diversity and inclusion are crucial to industry progression. While there is comfort in the familiar, the industry is starting to cast its net wider, but what ideas are there to improve diversity and inclusion in construction further?

”With the chronic skills shortage in the industry, construction will have to think creatively at how it can attract talent from different groups in society”

Meanwhile, in the post-covid battle for talent, occupiers are demanding super-green spaces in which to work with a clear sense of place. Firms are beginning to realise that to coax employees back to the office, the office itself has to change. For example, cycle stores and showers are mandatory nowadays.

Office occupancy seems to have shifted from single desk use to more collaborative working, with increased demand for amenity and breakout space. And less densely populated offices will reduce the requirements for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, thereby reducing embodied and operational carbon.

But post-covid working arrangements are still very much in their infancy and new ways of working, along with the use of technology, will be explored as part of the commission.

Building the Future Commission 


Coming up on the Building the Future commission:

In the coming weeks we will:

  • Host our first regional roundtable with our partner Constructing Excellence in the East of England region in mid March
  • Convene our first commissioner panel meeting at the end of March
  • Investigate the potential of building performance rating system NABERS as an alternative to Part L for the energy and net zero stream
  • Interview two big hitters in the world of infrastructure for the infrastructure stream
  • Examine whether the qualifications landscape needs to change and assess whether more flexibility is needed for our education and skills stream
  • Visit the University of Salford to assess the eHome2 concept for our energy and net zero stream
  • Investigate how for-profit affordable housing can deliver the homes we need for the housing and planning stream
  • Assess a new model of procurement used by the Ministry of Defence for the project delivery and digital stream
  • Look at models of flexible working in the industry for the workplace, culture and leadership stream

About the commission

The Building the Future Commission is a year-long project, launched to mark Building’s 180th  anniversary, to assess potential solutions and radical new ways of thinking to improve the built environment.

The major project’s work will be guided by a panel of 19 major figures who have signed up to help guide the commission’s work culminatuing  culminate in a report published at the end of the year.

The commissioner include figures from the world of contracting, housing development, architecture, policy-making, skills, design, place-making, infrastructure, consultancy and legal.

The commissioners include Lord Kerslake, former head of the civil service, Katy Dowding, executive vice president at Skanska, Richard Steer, chair of Gleeds, Lara Oyedele, president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, Mark Wild, former boss of Crossrail and chief executive of SGN and Simon Tolson, senior partner at Fenwick Elliott. See the full list here.

The project is looking at proposals for change in eight areas:

>> Editor’s view: And now for something completely positive - our Building the Future Commission

>> Click here for more about the project and the commissioners

Building the Future will also undertake a countrywide tour of roundtable discussions with experts around the regions as part of a consultation programme in partnership with the regional arms of industry body Constructing Excellence. It will also set up a young person’s advisory panel.

We will also be setting up an ideas hub and we want to hear your views.

>> Email  to get in touch